Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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In this dispute between a boat owner and his insurance company, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of the insurer, holding that the district court properly applied the doctrine of uberrimae fidei in this case.When Defendant applied for an insurance policy for his yacht from an entity later acquired by Plaintiff he failed to disclose that he had grounded a forty-foot yacht in Puerto Rico. Plaintiff later sought a declaratory judgment voiding the policy on the grounds that Defendant had failed to honor his duty of utmost good faith, known as uberrimae fidei in maritime law, in acquiring the policy and had therefore breached the warranty of truthfulness contained in the policy. The district court concluded that Plaintiff was entitled to void the policy. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that the uberrimae fidei doctrine entitled Plaintiff to a declaration that the policy was void. View "QBE Seguros v. Morales-Vazquez" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance, holding that the arguments on appeal brought by Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO) were unavailing.An accident that occurred in Florida damaged a Toyota Highlander insured by Ameriprise and a Lamborghini insured by GEICO and injured the driver of the Highlander. Ameriprise rescinded coverage, alleging that its insureds breached their obligations under the policy. Ameriprise brought this suit seeking declaratory relief in federal district court to approve the company's rescission and to confirm that Ameriprise had satisfied its compulsory coverage requirements under Massachusetts law. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Ameriprise. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in finding that Ameriprise could rescind the insureds' coverage as a matter of law because the insureds' misrepresentation of certain information breached the insureds' duty to inform Ameriprise about about dates to the Highlander's principal place of garaging and customary drivers; and (2) Ameriprise was not estopped from rescinding the insureds' coverage, and GEICO's waiver arguments failed as a matter of law. View "IDS Property Casualty Insurance Co. v. Government Employees Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of General Star Indemnity Company, the excess insurer of Performance Trans., Inc. and Utica Mutual Insurance Company (collectively PTI) in this Massachusetts breach of contract and unfair and deceptive insurance practices action under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11, holding that the district court erred in finding the relevant excess policy provisions unambiguously excluded coverage.In 2019, a PTI tanker-truck spilled approximately 4,300 gallons of gasoline, diesel fuel, and dyed diesel fuel onto the roadway and into a nearby reservoir. After cleanup costs exceeded PTI's primary insurance limit, PTI made a claim with General Star under the excess liability policy. General Star disclaimed any coverage obligation. When this suit was brought, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of General Star on the breach of contract claim and dismissed the chapter 93A, section 11 claim with prejudice. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the excess policy was ambiguous; and (2) because ambiguity in the policy must be construed in favor of the insured, coverage was available to PTI. View "Performance Trans., Inc. v. General Star Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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In this insurance coverage dispute, the First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court holding that United Rentals, Inc. was entitled to defense costs from Scottsdale Insurance Company as an additional insured and that the Scottsdale policy afforded additional insured coverage to United Rentals for its direct and vicarious liability but that this coverage was excess above United Rentals' own coverage under its policies with ACE American Insurance Company, holding that the district court erred in part.Gomes Services, Inc. contracted with United Rentals to rent an electric boom lift. While operated by a Gomes employee, the lift struck and injured Guy Ayotte. Ayotte sued United Rentals and Gomes. At the time of the accident, Gomes was insured by Scottsdale under a policy that extended coverage to any party that Gomes was required by written contract to add as an "additional insured." United Rentals requested that Scottsdale defend and indemnify United Rentals. After the district court made its ruling both parties appealed. The First Circuit held (1) Scottsdale had a duty to indemnify United Rentals in the Ayotte action for both its direct and vicarious liability; and (2) United Rentals' relevant policies did not qualify as "valid and collectible insurance," and therefore, the Scottsdale policy afforded coverage to United Rentals. View "Scottsdale Insurance Co. v. United Rentals, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs' breach of contract action against Defendant, their insurer, holding that the district court properly dismissed for failure to state a claim Plaintiffs' claim that Defendant failed to defend and indemnify them in a state court action.Newton Covenant Church (NCC) was comprised of members of the Newton Presbyterian Church (NPC) who withdrew from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and affiliated with a non-Presbyterian organization. NPC and the Presbytery of Boston sued the NCC in the state superior court seeking, among other things, a declaratory judgment that NPC owned church property at 75 Vernon Street in Newton, Massachusetts. NCC submitted a notice to the Great American Insurance Company (GAIC) requesting a defense in the state court action under a Director and Officers insurance policy. GAIC denied coverage on the grounds that the named insured under the policy was NPC, not NCC. After the parties reached a settlement NCC and its individual officers (collectively, Plaintiffs) brought this action against GAIC for breach of contract. The district court dismissed the complaint. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs' allegations were not reasonably susceptible of an interpretation that would state a claim covered under the policy. View "Newton Covenant Church v. Great American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this diversity case, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment against Clarendon National Insurance Company's claim that Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company breached its contract with Lundgren management Group, Inc. when Philadelphia declined to tender a defense to Lundgren, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment against Clarendon.Clarendon provided indemnity insurance to Lundgren, a building management corporation, from 2004 to 2005. Philadelphia insured Lundgren from 2007 to 2008. In 2009, Denise Doherty, a resident in a Lundgren-managed building, filed the underlying complaint against Lundgren after mold was discovered in her residence. Lundgren tendered the defense of the underlying complaint to Philadelphia. Philadelphia denied coverage, and Clarendon financed the defense of Lundgren. After the case settled, Philadelphia denied Clarendon's claim for contribution. Clarendon received an assignment from Lundgren of the claim arising in the Doherty matter and then filed the instant suit. The district court entered summary judgment dismissing Clarendon's complaint. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err by granting summary judgment on the duty to defend issue; and (2) properly entered summary judgment dismissing the claims alleging violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A and 176D. View "Clarendon National Insurance Co. v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's suit to recover unreimbursed defense costs that a former investment advisory firm (Firm) incurred in connection with a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation of the Firm, holding that the Firm was not entitled to coverage.Plaintiff, in his capacity as trustee of a trust established during the bankruptcy proceedings of the Firm, filed this suit against Defendants, two of the Firm's excess insurers, seeking to recover defense costs that the Firm incurred in connection with the SEC investigation. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that an SEC order issued before the start of Defendants' coverage period initiated the investigation of the Firm, and this order triggered the policy's "deemed-made" clause, meaning that the claim was deemed first made prior to Defendants' policy taking effect. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the SEC investigation was a claim that was deemed to have been made when the SEC order issued prior to the inception of Defendants' policies; and (2) accordingly and the claim was outside of the policies' coverage period, and Defendants were not obligated to reimburse the Firm for its defense costs. View "Jalbert v. Zurich Services Corp." on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning whether a settlement contract under Rhode Island law was formed after a personal injury lawsuit was filed the First Circuit certified to the Rhode Island Supreme Court the question of what is the definition of 'civil action' in R.I. Gen. Laws 27-7-2.2.Horace Johnson was the driver and Carlton Johnson was the sole passenger in a car accident. The accident occurred in Rhode Island. Both men were seriously injured. Horace was insured by Arbella Mutual Insurance Company. Arbella accepted Carlton's demand to settle for the policy limit of $100,000. Thereafter, Carlton filed a lawsuit against Horace, Arbella, and other defendants. A federal district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The district court rejected Carlton's argument that Rhode Island's Rejected Settlement Offer Interest Statute, section 27-7-2.2, applied to the case. Carlton appealed, arguing that the statute rendered the settlement contract unenforceable because Arbella failed to accept his settlement offer within the timetable set forth by the statute. At issue was whether the court correctly determined that the statute's "[i]n any civil action" language requires that a legal proceeding in court needs to be underway to trigger the statute's application. The First Circuit certified to the Rhode Island Supreme Court a question concerning the definition of "civil action." View "Johnson v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court ruling for Plaintiff on her action brought under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A and ch. 176D and awarding trebled damages in the amount of $5.4 million but reversed and remanded for calculation of prejudgment interest based on actual damages and not the treble damages figure of $5.4 million, holding that Plaintiff's measure of damages was her "actual damages" because there was no "judgment" in her case.Plaintiff, who was injured in a car accident at age twenty after drinking at a nightclub, sued the nightclub's insurer (Defendant), alleging that Defendant violated chapters 93A and 176D. The federal district court ruled for Plaintiff and assessed actual damages of $1.8 million against Defendant. The court then trebled the award after concluding that Defendant's violations were willful. The First Circuit affirmed on the whole but reversed as to the calculation of prejudgment interest, holding that the district court did not err in finding Defendant's violation of chapter 93A and 176D but erred when it calculated prejudgment interest on the trebled damages award instead of the single damages award. View "Capitol Specialty Insurance Corp. v. Higgins" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the First Circuit directed entry of summary judgment for Zurich American Insurance Company, holding that Zurich's decision to deny the insured's claim was supported by substantial evidence.Denise Arruda filed a claim for death benefits following the death of her husband, Joseph Arruda, in a car accident. Zurich denied the claim, concluding that Joseph's death was not within the coverage clause of the policy because the death was not independent of all other causes and that it was caused or contributed to by his pre-existing health conditions. Denise brought this action under 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B) alleging that Zurich violated ERISA by denying the insurance benefits. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Denise, concluding that substantial evidence did not support Zurich's decision. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Zurich's conclusion that Joseph's death was caused or contributed to by pre-existing medical conditions was not arbitrary or capricious and was supported by substantial evidence. View "Arruda v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law