Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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The decedent had insurance policies with Unum Life. After he died, he was survived by two minor children and his domestic partner. The district court granted a declaratory judgment, holding that Unum Life had adopted an unreasonable interpretation of the plans to support its decision to pay the domestic partner rather than the decedent's estate. The Eighth Circuit reversed, holding that Unum life reasonably interpreted the plan as allowing it to pay a decedent's domestic partner in the absence of a designated beneficiary. In this case, it was reasonable for Unum Life to interpret the word "spouse" in the plan to include domestic partners and to pay the death benefits to the covered person's domestic partner. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to enter judgment in defendant's favor. View "Engle v. Land O'Lakes, Inc." on Justia Law

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Insured Directors, plaintiffs in this declaratory judgment action seeking to allocate defense costs among insured and uninsured parties, appealed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment in favor of National Union. The court affirmed and held that the Insured Directors' failure to carry their burden of showing entitlement to 100% coverage was the dispositive issue before the district court and was dispositive on appeal. In this case, the district court appropriately considered the only issue properly raised before it. Therefore, the district court did not err in concluding that the Insured Directors failed to meet their burden of proving an allocation different from that proposed by National Union. View "Brand v. National Union Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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After the jury awarded damages to a sexual assault victim who was under the care of New Horizon, RSUI filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that the policy's "Sexual Abuse or Molestation" exclusion barred coverage for the underlying damage award above Travelers' policy limits. The district court granted summary judgment for New Horizon. The Eighth Circuit held that RSUI, an excess liability insurer that did not control the defense of its insured in the underlying suit, must be afforded an opportunity to prove in a subsequent coverage action that the jury award included damages for uncovered as well as covered claims. If the insurer sustains that burden, the court held that the district court must then allocate the award between covered and uncovered claims. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. View "RSUI Indemnity Co. v. New Horizon Kids Quest, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the insurance company in an action brought by McCrossan, alleging breach of the crime insurance policy after the company denied coverage under the "Forgery" and "Employee Theft" insuring clauses. The court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment to the Company on McCrossan's claims for Stewart's loss, because Stewart did not meet the policy's definition of "subsidiary," and was not an insured. The court also held that the district court properly granted the Company summary judgment on McCrossan's claims for Blakely's loss, because the acts of Blakely's employee, as an unauthorized representative of Blakely, were not covered by the plain and ordinary meaning of the insurance policy. View "C.S. McCrossan Inc. v. Federal Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting judgment for GEICO in an action seeking a declaratory judgment that the stacking provisions of other liability coverage in the insurance policy were not applicable to the claims at issue. The court held that the district court did not err in ruling on the declaratory judgment action, because the insurance policy unambiguously did not allow stacking under Missouri law. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing further discovery, because Missouri law does not permit courts to consider extrinsic evidence in interpreting an unambiguous contract. View "GEICO Casualty Co. v. Isaacson" on Justia Law

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Allstate filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the insureds violated the intentional acts exclusion of their insurance policy and that Allstate was entitled to recover its payment to the mortagees. Allstate concluded that the insureds' property was set on fire by or at the direction of one of the insureds. The district court denied the insureds' motion for summary judgment, and Allstate prevailed at trial. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not make a clear and prejudicial error affecting the outcome of the proceeding by admitting the expert opinions; the district court did not err in denying the insureds' motion for judgment as a matter of law, because the combination of Allstates' expert testimony regarding the possible causes of the fire, the rapid nature of the blaze, evidence of the insureds' financial incentives, and potential negative credibility determinations by the jury against the insureds suffices to meet the burden of submissibility; the denial of the insureds' motion for a new trial was not a miscarriage of justice in light of the evidence; the district court was entitled to order restitution of the amount paid the mortgagees as a means of effectuating the verdict in favor of Allstate in a declaratory judgment action; and judgment was properly entered against the co-insured, even where the verdict director focused on the other insured. View "Allstate Indemnity Co. v. Dixon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's denial of their motion for judgment as a matter of law in an action seeking reimbursement from State Farm after their house was destroyed by fire. The district court found that there was sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable juror to conclude that plaintiffs overstated the value of items lost in the fire by thousands of dollars and thus no expert was required to explain to the jury that fraudulent statements of this magnitude would be material to an insurer. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the record contained sufficient evidence to sustain the jury's determination that plaintiffs made material misrepresentations relating to their insurance claims and thus these material misrepresentations regarding the personal property lost in the fire voided their right to recover at all under the policy. View "Borchardt v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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After a child fell 50 ft. from a zipline at Bible camp, the parties dispute who potentially bears financial responsibility for her injuries. The Eighth Circuit held that, under the plain language of the insurance policy, the camp's insurer was not responsible for the conference center's alleged negligence. In this case, the insurer's potential liability for the child's injuries could not possibly have arisen out of the use of the premises leased to the insured. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for the entry of summary judgment for the insurer. View "Great American Alliance Insurance Co. v. Windermere Baptist Conference, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Air Evac's claims in an action alleging that Arkansas Blue inadequately reimbursed Air Evac for ambulance services that Air Evac provided Arkansas Blue plan members. The court held that Air Evac's assignment did not convey the right to sue for equitable relief under section 1132(a)(3) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Furthermore, the district court did not err by finding that Arkansas Blue's conduct was not actionable because it fell within the Arkansas Deceptive Practices Act's safe harbor for actions or transactions permitted under the laws administered by the insurance commissioner. Finally, the district court did not err by rejecting Air Evac's claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. View "Air Evac EMS, Inc. v. USAble Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for American Family in an action brought by plaintiff seeking uninsured motorist coverage from American Family after he was involved in a car accident. The court held that material facts remained unresolved regarding the proximate cause of the accident. In this case, a question of fact exists regarding whether the other driver's entry into the highway, alone, caused the accident or whether the brown car's entry ahead of the other driver caused him to stop, making the accident unavoidable. View "Cottrell v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law