Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

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ABK, LLC owned and operated a gas station in Post Falls, Idaho where underground storage tanks were damaged due to water infiltration into the gas stored in the tanks. After the damage occurred, ABK submitted a claim to its insurer, Mid-Century Insurance Company. Mid-Century denied the claim. ABK then sued Mid-Century alleging breach of contract and bad faith. Mid-Century moved for summary judgment on both claims. The district court granted summary judgment for Mid-Century on ABK’s breach of contract claim finding ABK failed to raise a genuine dispute as to the fact the underground storage tanks were damaged by water, specifically excluded by the terms of the policy. The district court also granted summary judgment for Mid-Century on ABK’s bad faith claim finding ABK failed to establish coverage. ABK appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Mid-Century on both claims. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "ABK v. Mid-Century Insurance" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Robert Barnes filed a putative class action against defendant Security Life of Denver Insurance Company (SLD) alleging that SLD, in the course of administering life insurance policies purchased by Barnes and other similarly-situated class members, breached its contractual duties and committed the tort of conversion by imposing certain administrative costs that were not authorized under the terms of the policies. Jackson National Life Insurance Company (Jackson) moved to intervene, asserting that, as a result of reinsurance agreements entered into by SLD, Jackson was actually the entity responsible for administering Barnes’s policy and numerous other policies listed within the putative class. The district court denied Jackson’s motion. After reviewing the parties’ briefs and the record on appeal, the Tenth Circuit concluded Jackson established the requirements for intervention as of right, and accordingly reversed the decision of the district court and remanded with directions to grant Jackson’s motion to intervene. View "Barnes v. Security Life of Denver" on Justia Law

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Two auto body collision repair shops filed a class action against dozens of insurance defendants, alleging claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and state law fraud and unjust enrichment theories. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss each of plaintiffs' claims. The court held that plaintiffs failed to allege at least two predicate acts of racketeering activity, fraud or extortion. The court also held that plaintiffs have not sufficiently pleaded their state law fraud and unjust enrichment claims; the district court did not err by excluding exhibits E1-E7; and the district court did not err by dismissing the complaint with prejudice. View "Crawford's Auto Center, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Deena Wood was seriously injured in a car collision. At the time of the collision, Wood had auto insurance through Farmers Insurance Company of Idaho, which included $100,000 of underinsured motorist ("UIM") coverage but also contained a provision stating that the amount of coverage would be reduced by the liability limit of the at-fault driver. Because the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability limit was equal to Wood’s underinsured motorist limit, Farmers determined that no underinsured benefits were owed to Wood. Wood challenged the denial in district court, arguing in a motion for reconsideration that the offset provision should be declared void as against public policy because it “diluted” UIM coverage. The district court rejected Wood’s argument. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision. View "Wood v. Farmers Insurance Co of Idaho" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal in this insurance dispute, holding that an insurer that issues a reduced premium collector vehicle policy may not limit uninsured motorist coverage under the specialty policy to accidents involving the occupancy or use of the collector vehicle. The Estate of Michael Lentini, who was operating his motorcycle when he was involved in a fatal accident, sought uninsured motorist benefits under a policy issued on a collector vehicle. The policy limited uninsured motorist coverage to accidents involving the covered collector vehicle. The Insurer denied coverage, and the Estate sued. The trial court entered summary judgment for the Insurer. The Fifth District reversed, concluding that the collector vehicle policy must and did not comply with the statutory requirements of Fla. Stat. 627.727. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the requirements of section 627.727 prohibited the limitations placed on uninsured motorist coverage in the collector vehicle policy at issue in this case. View "American Southern Home Insurance Co. v. Lentini" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Joseph Corriveau's declaratory judgment action where Corriveau requested a determination that the uninsured motorist provision in his mother Tracey Ballagh's automobile insurance policy issued by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company provided coverage for his injuries arising from an assault that took place on his school bus, holding that no nexus existed between Corriveau’s injuries and the use of the school bus as a means of transportation. Corriveau, a special needs child, was abused while riding a school bus. The insurance policy in this case contained an uninsured motorist provision covering an insured's damages for bodily injuries that "arise out of the ownership, maintenance, or use" of the uninsured motor vehicle. The circuit court granted summary judgment for State Farm, finding that there was no causal connection between Corriveau's injuries and the use of the school bus as a vehicle used to transport children to school. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no causal connection existed between the assault and the employment of the school bus as a school bus. View "Corriveau v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in a putative class action seeking damages and a declaration that vehicle insurance purchased by plaintiffs was not valid. Plaintiffs alleged that the endorsement in the policy was illusory because it only provides coverage for vicarious liability against lessors, and that liability was foreclosed by the Graves Amendment. Determining that plaintiffs had Article III standing, the court held that the endorsement was not illusory because it imposed on defendants a duty to defend lessors from claims of vicarious liability. View "Hallums v. Infinity Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Geico Marine filed suit seeking a declaration that a navigational limit in the policy with defendant that required the vessel to be north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, during hurricane season barred coverage. The district court ruled against Geico Marine and declared that the policy covered the loss. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the navigational limit barred coverage. In this case, the policy was not ambiguous about whether it contained a navigational limit when the loss occurred, and the plain language of the policy contained a navigational limit. Because the navigational limit was dispositive where the vessel suffered damage while outside the covered navigational area, the court need not address the breach of a duty of uberrimae fidei. View "Geico Marine Insurance Co. v. Shackleford" on Justia Law

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In 1997, Suffolk Construction Company entered into a contract with the University of Connecticut (“UConn”) for the construction of several buildings on UConn’s campus. UConn secured insurance policies from Reliance Insurance Company for the Project, naming Suffolk (and other contractors) as an insured. Suffolk completed the work in January 2001. The Reliance insurance policy was extended until January 2004. However, in late 2001, however, Reliance went into liquidation. In 2013 and 2014, UConn complained of defects in the construction that resulted in damage to its buildings. UConn initiated legal proceedings against Suffolk and other contractors. In 2016, Suffolk submitted a proof of claim to the Insurance Commissioner of Pennsylvania, as the statutory liquidator of Reliance. At issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this case involved the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court's interpretation of certain contract language using Connecticut law. The Commonwealth Court found that the language of the contract was clear and unambiguous, thus precluding consideration of extrinsic evidence of the parties’ intent. The Supreme Court determined, however, a Settlement Agreement between the parties could have been construed as nothing more than a mutual general release between UConn and Suffolk: "The ambiguity stems not from Suffolk’s 'subjective perception' of the terms of the Settlement Agreement, but from the terms of the agreement itself, as the language releasing claims for 'insurance coverage' and 'indemnification' does not have a single, clear meaning." As such, the Commonwealth Court erred by failing to consider extrinsic evidence, outside of the terms of the Settlement Agreement, to discern the parties’ intent. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the Commonwealth Court decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "Suffolk Constr. v. Reliance Ins." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Steve and Pamela Zannini, appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to defendant Phenix Mutual Fire Insurance Company, on plaintiffs’ breach of contract and declaratory judgment claims. In March 2016, the plaintiffs’ Ashland, New Hampshire residence sustained “significant flooding” as the result of burst pipes. The house was insured by defendant, and plaintiffs filed a claim for water damage. Defendant sent an adjuster to investigate, who instructed plaintiffs to remove the floor of the house so that he could investigate the area underneath. After they did so, the house began to collapse, and plaintiffs repaired its framing to prevent it from collapsing completely. As a result of removing the floor, plaintiffs “suffered a complete loss [of the house] and direct physical loss of [their] personal property and use of the [house] for a substantial amount of time.” On May 3, 2016, defendant sent the plaintiffs a letter denying coverage of the damage caused by the collapse. Plaintiffs argued on appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court that: (1) a provision in the insurance policy at issue requiring that suits be brought within one year of the date of loss was unenforceable because it violated public policy; and (2) genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether defendant’s communications tolled the one-year period, and defendant was estopped from asserting or waived it as a defense. The Supreme Court affirmed, finding the one-year limitation period did not violate the public policy underlying statutes of limitations. Further, the communications between the parties did not create issues of material fact as to whether the one- year period was tolled or whether the defendant waived or was otherwise estopped from asserting the provision as a defense. View "Zannini v. Phenix Mutual Fire Insurance Company" on Justia Law