Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging claims of breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and negligence. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's motion to dismiss the breach of contract and negligence claims because plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for breach of contract or negligence. In this case, the language of the policy was unambiguous in describing what the parties intended their contract to be—the policy itself and the written application for the policy. Because the loan forms plaintiff relied on to support the breach of contract claim were not part of the insurance policy, the claim failed. Likewise, the negligence claim failed because it relied on the loan forms being part of the insurance contract. View "Torti v. John Hancock Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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After a jury found that Charter Oak was liable for breach of contract and deceit for its handling of plaintiff's underinsured motorist (UIM) claim, the district court partly granted judgment as a matter of law and approved some of the compensatory damages, as well as all of the punitive damages. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the independent duty rule did not bar plaintiff's deceit claim; there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict that there was deceit and the deceit harmed plaintiff; the evidence supported the jury's finding that Charter Oak's breach of contract prevented plaintiff from submitting her UIM claim sooner and award of interest on UIM monies from the delay; the district court did not err by failing to conform plaintiff's pleadings, and properly nullified the award for mental and emotional harm; the district court properly applied South Dakota law and applied a 15% interest rate on the $900,000 payment of the UIM claim; and the evidence supported the award of punitive damages and the award was not excessive. View "Dziadek v. The Charter Oak Fire Ins." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured in a car accident while driving a loaner vehicle from Billion, she filed suit against Billion's insurer, Travelers, for coverage under the commercial insurance policy. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit for failure to state a claim. Although plaintiff did not allege facts showing that her tort or punitive damages or attorneys fees would exceed $75,000, it was not legally impossible that she could recover at least that amount. Therefore, the district court had jurisdiction over the suit. The court held that, reading the endorsement together with the declarations page, the district court properly found the policy did not cover auto medical payments; because plaintiff was not insured under the auto medical coverage provision of the policy, the district court properly dismissed her remaining claims; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying her motions to reconsider or amend. View "Peterson v. The Travelers Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Christopher Klick was seriously injured after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning while aboard a friend’s fishing boat. An exhaust pipe had broken off at the spot where it connected with the engine. As a result, the engine had been expelling carbon monoxide gas into the engine compartment rather than through the exhaust pipe and out behind the boat. When the engine compartment hatch from within the wheelhouse was opened, carbon monoxide flowed up into the wheelhouse. Klick quickly lost consciousness and fell into the engine compartment. He awoke there several hours later, severely burned from lying on the engine. He also suffered brain damage from the carbon monoxide. The gas killed the boat’s two other occupants, but Klick survived. Klick sued the boat dealer in state court. The dealer had an insurance policy from Travelers Property Casualty Company of America that required Travelers to pay for liabilities resulting from bodily injury. The policy, however, had a pollution exclusion providing that the policy did not cover liability for injuries arising out of the release, dispersal, or migration of certain pollutants. Travelers sued in federal court, seeking a declaration that the policy did not cover liability for Klick’s injuries. The district court granted summary judgment for Travelers. We conclude that the pollution exclusion applies, and we therefore affirm. View "Travelers Property Casualty v. Klick" on Justia Law

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McShane filed suit against Gotham for failing to pay its insurance claim related to the alleged improper installation of a fire protection and suppression system by one of McShane's subcontractors, Mallory. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Gotham's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The court held that McShane's statutory claims were properly dismissed because neither rests upon a private right of action; McShane failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted with regard to its breach of contract theories where McShane failed to allege a legal obligation to pay any judgment covered under the terms of the policy; and McShane failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted based upon waiver or estoppel. View "McShane Construction Co. v. Gotham Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Jacob Plassmeyer incurred medical expenses during a collegiate baseball practice, and his college provided its student athletes insurance with FA. Jacob's father was also insured by the Dakotas, an employee welfare benefit plan, and Jacob was covered under this Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plan as a dependent of his father. In this case, the trustees of Dakotas brought this declaratory judgment action against FA under section 502(a)(3) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(3), seeking an order enforcing the coordination of benefits (COB) provisions in the Dakotas plan by declaring that FA's policy provided primary coverage of Jacob's claim for medical expenses already incurred. The district court denied FA's motion to dismiss and granted Dakotas' motion for summary judgment. The Eighth Circuit held that a declaratory judgment action to enforce the Dakotas plan as it applied to the claim for benefits was both consistent with the plain language of section 502(a)(3), as construed in light of historical equitable remedies available to trustees; the court agreed with the district court that FA's coverage was primary; but the district court abused its discretion in awarding attorney fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Dakotas and Western Minnesota Electrical Industry Health & Welfare Fund v. First Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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HRA appealed the district court's order declining to grant pre-award interest on an insurance appraisal award. The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the Minnesota Supreme Court subsequently ruled that Minnesota Statute section 549.09 provides for pre-award interest on such awards. On remand, the district court may decide in the first instance how to calculate the pre-award interest. View "Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Redwood Falls v. Housing Authority Property Insurance" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision upholding National Union's denial of benefits. The court held that National Union did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's claims for accidental death and spousal benefits, because National Union's interpretation of the policy was not unreasonable. In this case, the policy gave National Union full discretionary authority to interpret its terms. View "Donaldson v. National Union Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the insurers' motion to dismiss, reversed and vacated the award of prejudgment interest, and affirmed the rejection of Simmons' claims for statutory damages and attorney fees. The court applied Arkansas law and held that the district court properly denied the insurers' motion to dismiss because Simmons's suit was timely. However, the district court's entry of judgment and prejudgment interest was not appropriate where Simmons' damages were not capable of exact determination until the jury spoke. Finally, the district court properly denied Simmons' request for statutory damages and attorney fees, because Simmons did not recover the statutory threshold of at least 80% of the amount it demanded in the suit. View "Simmons Foods, Inc. v. Industrial Risk Insurers" on Justia Law