Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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The relevant consolidated appeals constitute the latest chapter of a long-running legal battle over attempts to satisfy a 2010 default judgment of $318 million under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2333, against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or FARC) for murder and kidnapping.   In the first appeal (Case No. 20-11736), Appellant appealed the district court’s orders directing certain garnishees to liquidate and/or distribute their assets to Plaintiffs who obtained the $318 million judgment. In the second appeal(Case No. 20-12467) Appellant appealed the denial of their motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the sale of real property located at 325 Leucadendra Drive in Coral Gables, Florida. In the third appeal(Case No. 20-12545) Appellant’s wife appealed the district court’s denial of her motion to intervene in the proceedings concerning the sale of real property located at 325 Leucadendra Drive (and owned by Leucadendra 325, one of the Appellants in Case Nos. 20-11736 and 20-12467).   In Case No. 20-11736, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that a jury must decide whether Appellant and his companies qualify as agencies or instrumentalities of the FARC such that their assets can be garnished by Plaintiffs to satisfy their $318 million judgment. The court, therefore, reversed and remanded that appeal. In Case No. 20-12467, the court dismissed the appeal as moot because 325 Leucadendra has been sold and the court lacks the ability to grant the requested relief. In Case No. 20- 12545, the court affirmed the district court’s order denying Appellant’s wife’s motion to intervene as untimely and therefore dismiss the appeal. View "Keith Stansell, et al v. UBS Financial Services, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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MSPA Claims 1 LLC—the assignee of a now-defunct Medicare Advantage Organization—sued Tower Hill Prime Insurance Company to recover a reimbursable payment. The district court granted Tower Hill’s motion for summary judgment because it determined that MSPA Claims 1’s suit was untimely.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that because it is at least “plausible” that the term “accrues” in Section 1658(a) incorporates an occurrence rule—in fact, and setting presumptions aside, the court wrote that it thinks that’s the best interpretation—that is how the court interprets it. Therefore, MSPA Claims 1’s cause of action accrued in 2012 when MSPA Claims 1’s assignor, Florida Healthcare, paid D.L.’s medical bills and became entitled to reimbursement through the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. Because that was more than four years before MSPA Claims 1 filed suit in 2018, its suit is not timely under 28 U.S.C. Section 1658(a). View "MSPA Claims 1, LLC. v. Tower Hill Prime Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued to obtain two insurance benefits that she believes Hartford Insurance Company owes her: (1) long-term disability payments and (2) a waiver of life insurance premiums. Although it concedes that Plaintiff was covered by its policy, Hartford contends that she was ineligible for those benefits.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting Hartford summary judgment, concluding that Hartford’s determinations were permissible. The court explained that Plaintiff was not entitled to disability payments because Hartford’s interpretation of the disability exclusion was reasonable, and its conflict of interest didn’t lead it to make an arbitrary or capricious decision. Likewise, Plaintiff was not entitled to a waiver of life insurance premiums because she wasn’t disabled within the meaning of Hartford’s life insurance policy. View "Carol H. Stewart v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Various actors in the Medicare Advantage program assigned claims for failure to pay or reimburse medical expenses owed under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act to Plaintiffs—MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC; MSPA Claims 1, LLC; and MAO-MSO Recovery II LLC, Series PMPI, (collectively, “MSP Recovery”). MSP Recovery then asserted those claims against Metropolitan General Insurance Company, Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Company, Metropolitan Group Property & Casualty Insurance Company, Metlife Auto & Home Group, and Metropolitan P&C Insurance Company (collectively, “Defendants”).   The district court dismissed MSP Recovery’s claims because the complaint failed to show that Defendants had a “demonstrated responsibility” to reimburse MSP Recovery’s assignors for the medical expenses at issue. The Eleventh Circuit held that at this procedural stage MSP Recovery’s complaint plausibly alleged that Defendants had a demonstrated responsibility to pay the claims, and the court, therefore reversed and remanded this case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.   The court explained that the district court found that it would not consider Exhibit A, which was attached to and referenced by incorporation in the factual allegations of MSP Recovery’s complaint. Because “documents attached to a complaint or incorporated in the complaint by reference can generally be considered by a federal court in ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6),” the court concluded that the district court erred in failing to consider whether the complaint and Exhibit A, taken together, plausibly alleged that Defendants’ responsibility to pay had been demonstrated prior to suit. View "MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC, et al v. Metropolitan General Insurance Company, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff suffered serious injuries in an automobile accident and won over $12 million in a suit against the other driver. To recover the judgment, Plaintiff sued that driver’s insurance company on the theory that it acted in bad faith toward its insureds. The jury returned a verdict in the insurer’s favor, but Plaintiff argued that the district court abused its discretion by failing to give his proposed jury instruction.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling explaining that the district court’s instruction omitted the state law relevant to this theory of liability. The court explained that the district court instructed the jury on bad faith resulting from the failure to settle a claim. But Florida law provides—and Plaintiff argued at trial—that bad faith is also present when an insurance company fails to advise an insured about settlement offers and likely litigation outcomes. Further, Plaintiff’s proposed jury instruction correctly stated the legal basis for his failure-to-advise theory of liability, and the district court’s failure to give that instruction to the jury caused him prejudice. View "Dustin C. Brink v. Direct General Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Great Lakes Insurance SE (“Great Lakes”) and Wave Cruiser LLC (“Wave Cruiser”) were involved in an insurance dispute. Wave Cruiser purchased an “all risks” insurance policy from Great Lakes covering a vessel that Wave Cruiser had recently acquired. The policy did not cover engine damage unless an accidental external event caused the damage. After Wave Cruiser purchased the policy, the vessel suffered catastrophic engine failure. Wave Cruiser submitted a claim on its policy. Great Lakes denied the claim, explaining that Wave Cruiser had not shown that an external event caused the engine damage.   Great Lakes filed suit for a declaratory judgment that Wave Cruiser’s policy did not afford coverage for the loss. Wave Cruiser filed counterclaims for breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. The district court granted summary judgment to Great Lakes. The district court concluded that Wave Cruiser failed to come forward with evidence that an external event caused the engine damage.   The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the district court that Wave Cruiser had the burden to come forward with evidence that an external event caused the engine failure. The court held that (1) the district court did not err by placing the burden on Wave Cruiser to provide evidence that an external event caused the vessel’s port engine to fail, and (2) the district court committed harmless error by considering inadmissible expert opinion testimony. View "Great Lakes Insurance SE v. Wave Cruiser LLC" on Justia Law

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Dukes Clothing, LLC (“Dukes”) operated two clothing stores. As a result of the state orders and a customer’s exposure to COVID-19, Dukes was forced to close its doors. These closures resulted in lost business income for Dukes. Dukes’s insurer, The Cincinnati Insurance Company (“Cincinnati”), had issued an all-risk commercial insurance policy to Dukes. Dukes submitted a claim under its policy to recover its loss of business income due to its store closures caused by COVID-19. Cincinnati denied the claim on the basis that Dukes’s income loss was not caused by a direct physical loss or damage to the insured’s property.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims holding that Plaintiff’s income loss was not caused by a direct physical loss or damage to the insured’s property. The court explained that when examining insurance policies, Alabama courts consider the language of the policy as a whole, not in isolation. There are no Alabama appellate court decisions interpreting the relevant terms here—physical loss or damage—or interpreting these types of all-risk policies in the COVID-19 context so the court looked to its’ decisions interpreting nearly identical terms under Florida and Georgia law. Ultimately, the court found that since COVID-19 does not cause a “tangible alteration of the property” such that the property could not be used in the future or needed repairs to be used, lost business income resulting from COVID-19 could not constitute a “physical loss of or damage to” the property necessary for insurance coverage. View "Dukes Clothing, LLC v. The Cincinnati Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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When the first Covid-19 cases appeared in Georgia, the governor declared a public state of emergency. Plaintiff’s restaurant played its part by suspending dine-in service. To recover the income, it was losing by closing its doors, Plaintiff quickly filed a claim with its insurer, Allied Insurance Company of America. Under Plaintiff’s “Premier Businessowners Property Coverage” policy, Allied agreed to “pay for direct physical loss of or damage to Covered Property” if it was “caused by or resulting from any Covered Cause of Loss.”   Allied denied coverage. It found that Plaintiff’s closure was not caused by any “direct physical loss or damage.” And under the policy’s Virus or Bacteria exclusion, Allied refused to “pay for loss or damage caused directly or indirectly” by any “virus.” The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim. It held that no “direct physical loss of or damage to” property occurred because the restaurant and its dining room “underwent no physical change.”   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, holding that the harm does not extend to the intangible harm caused by Covid-19 or by a declaration of public emergency issued in its wake. Plaintiff alleged no actual change to its property. Even if the court assumed that the governor’s Covid-19 order caused loss because it deprived the restaurant of the use of its property, that does not result in a win for Plainitff. Allied agreed to provide for only one manner of loss—the physical loss of Henry’s property and to be physical it must be “tangible or concrete.” View "Henry's Louisiana Grill, Inc., et al v. Allied Insurance Company of America" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff insured a nightclub under a general liability policy, which covered “bodily injury and property damage liability.” The policy contained several restrictions on that coverage. A nightclub employee and guest were both shot during a shooting at the club.   After the shooting, Plaintiff filed a federal declaratory judgment to determine the full extent of its liability. Plaintiff claimed that because the nightclub shooting was an assault and battery, the policy limited recovery for any and all injuries to $50,000. Second, it argued that the worker’s compensation and employee-injury exclusions barred the employee’s recovery. To get around the bar, the employee’s estate argued that the nightclub’s actions triggered a statutory exception for intentional torts. It alleged that the nightclub had engaged in conduct that it “knew” was virtually certain to result in injury or death to the employee.” Relying primarily on the conflict between one of the federal claims and the state case, the district court dismissed the case. Defendant appealed.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s dismissal held that the district court failed to consider the policy limits claim, missed the efficiency gains that it needed to balance against federalism and comity interests before deciding whether to proceed with the declaratory judgment action. A totality-of-the-circumstances analysis only works when a court considers all of the relevant details. To do otherwise leaves weights that should be balanced off the scales, or, if used more nefariously, would tip them in favor of a result chosen in advance. View "James River Insurance Company v. Rich Bon Corp, et al." on Justia Law

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Comegys, an independent insurance agency, had an independent contractor relationship with Safeco, a liability insurer. Comegys marketed Safeco insurance policies to the public. Comegys was allegedly negligent in procuring automobile insurance for one of its clients. Comegys had provided the client with an automobile insurance policy from Safeco, which the client eventually needed to rely on when he caused a car accident that ended in a motorcyclist’s death. Comegys offered to settle (and did settle through the errors and omissions policy it had with Endurance) the potential negligence claims the client had against it.   Relying on the indemnification provision between Safeco and Comegys, Endurance sued Safeco. Endurance wants to be indemnified by Safeco because the attorney Safeco provided to the client after the car accident pointed out the potential negligence claim the client had against Comegys.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s judgment finding in favor of Endurance’s claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court held that Safeco was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court reasoned that under Florida law, “[i]ndemnity contracts are subject to the general rules of contractual construction . . . [and] must be construed on the [express] intentions of the parties.” Here, there is no breach because Endurance never carried its burden at trial of explaining how Safeco breached the indemnification provision of the Limited Agreement. Further, Endurance did not argue that there is any express term of the Limited Agreement (besides the indemnification provision, which requires breach of an independent contract provision) that has been violated. View "Endurance American Specialty Insurance Company v. Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois, et al." on Justia Law