Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

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National filed suit against Universal and its parent company, Ally, for breach of contract and other claims after Universal terminated National's non-exclusive right to represent Universal's vehicle warranty program. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Universal and dismissed National's claims.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the termination provision and the representative-fee provision in the 2003 Universal Rep. Agreement unambiguously ended National's entitlement to post-termination representative fees. The court also rejected National's attempt to prove its entitlement to ongoing post-termination representative fees under the 2003 Universal Rep. Agreement via extrinsic evidence—Universal's continued payment of post-termination representative fees under the 2003 VehicleOne Rep. Agreement. The court further concluded that National's fraudulent concealment and negligent misrepresentation claims fail where the terms of the contracts created non-exclusive, limited grants of authority to National, as an independent contractor, that could be terminated at will by either party with sixty days' notice. Therefore, to the extent the alleged statements contradicted these terms, National could not reasonably rely on them under Nebraska law. Finally, National's claims for unjust enrichment and breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing failed because they both depend on its assertion that the district court misinterpreted the effect of termination of the 2003 Universal Rep. Agreement. View "B. Thomas and Co. v. Universal Warranty Corp." on Justia Law

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This dispute over uninsured motorist ("UM") coverage arose from a motor vehicle accident on Louisiana Highway 6 near Natchitoches. Martin Baack, an employee of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, was driving his work vehicle when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Michael McIntosh. The vehicle Baack was driving belonged to PPC Transportation Company. Both Pilgrim’s Pride and PPC Transportation were subsidiaries of JBS USA Holdings, Inc. (“JBS”). McIntosh was determined to be solely at fault for the accident and pled guilty to improper lane usage. Baack and his wife filed suit individually and on behalf of their minor daughter naming as defendants McIntosh, his insurer, and Zurich American Insurance Company (“Zurich”) in its capacity as the UM provider for PPC Transportation’s vehicle. In JBS’s policy with Zurich, PPC Transportation was listed as a Broad Named Insured. The Baacks sought damages under Zurich’s UM coverage as well as penalties and attorney fees based on Zurich’s failure to timely settle the claim. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted consolidated writs to determine whether an insured’s initial UM coverage waiver remains valid where, upon consecutive renewals, the insured submitted new signed and dated UM forms without initialing the blanks provided to reject UM coverage. Based on the Court's interpretation of the UM statute, it found such a subsequently submitted form changes the prior rejection and operated to provide UM coverage. Additionally, finding no error in the quantum of damages and denial of penalties and attorney fees by the court of appeal, the Court affirmed. View "Baack v. McIntosh et al." on Justia Law

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Because the Louisiana Supreme Court found in its original opinion that plaintiffs had a right of action under La. C.C. arts. 2315.1 and 2315.2, their constitutional challenge was pretermitted and “that part of the district court judgment declaring [these code articles and La. C.C. art. 199 to be] unconstitutional as applied to children given in adoption” was vacated. Having found on rehearing that the codal analysis of La. C.C. arts. 2315.1, 2315.2 and 199 foreclosed a right of action to the plaintiff children, who were given in adoption, for the death of their biological parent and half-siblings, the Supreme Court was called on to address the propriety of the district court’s declaration that La. C.C. arts. 2315.1, 2315.2, and 199 are “unconstitutional as applied to children given in adoption.” The Court found a rational basis existed for limiting the categories of eligible claimants in La. C.C. arts. 2315.1 and 2315.2 to those who “are likely to be most affected by the death of the deceased.” Children given in adoption “have moved into a new parental relationship, becoming children ‘by adoption,’ who are eligible claimants in the unfortunate occurrence of the tortious death of their adoptive parents. Likewise, the transfer of children into a new parental unit as children ‘by adoption’ terminates, for purposes of wrongful death and survival actions, any connection between the ‘children given in adoption’ and any biological siblings who were not ‘given in adoption.’” For these reasons, the district court legally erred in finding that the fact that Daniel Goins and David Watts were adopted did not prevent them from bringing survival and wrongful death claims for the deaths of their biological father and biological half-siblings and in overruling the defendant’s exception raising the objection of no right of action. The Supreme Court's original decree was vacated and the district court's judgment was reversed. Judgment was entered sustaining the defendant insurance company's peremptory exception raising the objection of no right of action, and dismissing the claims that were the subject of this exception. View "Rismiller et al. v. Gemini Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to recover long-term disability benefits from MetLife, the district court severed the coverage issue from the remaining issues. At issue in regards to coverage was whether Standard, the carrier for calendar year 2016, or MetLife, the carrier for 2017, provided coverage. The district court concluded that Standard, which had been previously dismissed, covered this claim.The Fifth Circuit reversed, concluding that the court's reading of the Standard and MetLife policies lead it to conclude that Standard provided no coverage and coverage was afforded to plaintiff under MetLife's policy. The court explained that the Standard and MetLife policies outline how to transition coverage between old and new policies, as well as provide special rules for employees who temporarily recover during a transition. In this case, the plain language of the policies make it clear that plaintiff's benefits coverage for his alleged long-term disability shifted from Standard to MetLife. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Talamantes v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit certified a question of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on whether Progressive Northern Insurance Company's Underinsured Motorist (UM) Exclusion--which operated to deny uninsured motorist coverage to insureds who recover at least the statutorily mandated minimum in the form of liability coverage--contravened Oklahoma's Uninsured Motorist Statute, codified at 36 O.S. section 3636. The Supreme Court responded "yes:" Because of the sweeping nature of the UM Exclusion contained in the insurance policy at issue, Progressive found a way to entirely avoid providing the promised coverage. "[A]n insurer in Oklahoma cannot deprive its policyholder of uninsured-motorist coverage for which a premium has been paid through an exclusion that effectively erases its policyholder's choice to purchase that coverage in the first place. We conclude that Progressive's UM Exclusion contravenes section 3636 and is therefore void as against public policy." View "Lane v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Deerfield. the general contractor, subcontracted with P.S. Demolition, which agreed to indemnify and hold Deerfield harmless from all claims caused in whole or in part by P.S. P.S. employees were working at the site when an unsecured capstone fell, killing one and injuring another. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act limited P.S.’s liability to $5,993.91 and $25,229.15. The state court held that P.S. had waived the Kotecki cap that would ordinarily apply those limits to a third party (Deerfield) suing for contribution for its pro-rata share of common liability for a workplace injury. A bankruptcy court determined that P.S. had no assets; the state court determined that P.S.’s liability was limited to its available insurance coverage. Deerfield settled with the plaintiffs for substantially more than $75,000 plus an assignment of Deerfield’s contribution claim against P.S.StarNet, P.S.’s employer liability insurer, entered into a settlement with the plaintiffs, reserving its defenses to insurance coverage. The plaintiffs dismissed their negligence claims against P.S. The workers’ compensation and employers' liability policy issued to P.S. provides that StarNet will pay damages for which P.S. is liable to indemnify third parties, excluding “liability assumed under a contract, including any agreement to waive your right to limit your liability for contribution to the amount of benefits payable under the Workers Compensation Act ... This exclusion does not apply to a warranty that your work will be done in a workmanlike manner.The Seventh Circuit affirmed a declaratory judgment that StarNet owes P.S. no coverage for the employees’ injuries beyond the amounts specified by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Kotecki cap. The court rejected arguments that P.S.’s liability in the personal injury action arose in part from P.S.’s failure to conduct the demolition in a workmanlike manner so that the exception applies. View "StarNet Insurance Co. v. Ruprecht" on Justia Law

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SFC, an equestrian center hosted off‐site trail‐riding events. SFC and American entered into a “farm-owner” insurance policy that described the insured premises as the farm’s address. The policy provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage caused by an “occurrence” that arises out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the “insured premises” or operations that are necessary or incidental to the “insured premises.” There is no coverage for the use of a motorized vehicle except a “motorized vehicle” which is designed only for use off public roads and which is used to service the “insured premises.” Ratay, an SFC employee, transported horses, equipment, and a golf cart from the farm to a riding center approximately 15 miles from SFC’s property, and supervised those riding SFC horses while driving the SFC golf cart. Shockley was a passenger in the cart when Ratay chased a horse through a field. Shockley flew out of the vehicle. The cart ran over his leg. Shockley filed suit.The district court entered a declaratory judgment that American has no duty to defend or indemnify SFC. The Seventh Circuit reversed. In Illinois, the duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify. The court noted ambiguities caused by the policy’s competing characteristics as a farm-owner policy and as a commercial general liability policy. The complaint’s allegations sufficiently invoke the policy’s coverage; the golf cart was being used for business purposes. View "American Bankers Insurance Co v. Shockley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Cathedral of Faith Baptist Church, Inc., and Lee Riggins appealed the dismissal of their complaint asserting various claims against, among others, Donald Moulton, Sr., Broken Vessel United Church ("Broken Vessel"), Lucien Blankenship, Blankenship & Associates, Antoinette M. Plump, Felicia Harris-Daniels, Tara Walker, and Tavares Roberts ("defendants"). Cathedral Church conducted worship at its property until membership dwindled and discontinued meeting. A mortgage existed on the property with Regions Bank which was outstanding and failed to be paid by Riggins. Riggins and Willie Bell Hall were the sole survivors and interest holders of Cathedral Church; their interest conveyed legally to Riggins. Moulton, on behalf of Broken Vessel Church, sought to rent the Cathedral Church property from Riggins. Riggins agreed to rent the property; Moulton and Broken Vessel Church were to seek financing. Moulton and Broken Vessel Church were to pay the commercial liability insurance Cathedral Church maintained with Planter's Insurance. However Moulton and Broken Vessel unilaterally changed the insurance carrier in July 2015 to Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company without Cathedral Church and Riggins's knowledge or consent. Moulton and Broken Vessel never obtained financing to purchase the property and never paid any money to Riggins or Cathedral Church. Riggins paid for all Cathedral Church repairs and renovations required. Then in late 2016, Cathedral Church burned and was a total loss. Moulton made a claim to Nationwide for the lost premises and contents. No money was paid to Riggins. Riggins discovered the property settlement with Nationwide in or around August 2017. Riggins also discovered two recordings of a general warranty deed at the local Tax Assessor's office purporting to be the sale of the property by Riggins to Broken Vessel. Riggins filed suit, raising a number of causes of action sounding in fraud and conspiracy, and denying he conveyed the church property to Moulton or Broken Vessel, and denied the validity of the deeds on file at the Assessor's office. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court judgment on appeal here did not adjudicate all claims before the court. It was therefore a nonfinal judgement that could not support this appeal. The appeal was thus dismissed. View "Cathedral of Faith Baptist Church, Inc. et al. v. Moulton, et al." on Justia Law

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Nucor Steel Tuscaloosa, Inc. ("Nucor"), appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Zurich American Insurance Company ("Zurich") and Onin Staffing, LLC ("Onin"), on claims asserted by Nucor arising from an alleged breach of an indemnification agreement. Nucor operated a steel-manufacturing facility in Tuscaloosa. Nucor had an internship program that offered part-time work to technical-school students, who, as part of the internship program, earned both academic credit and work experience relevant to their vocational training. In 2010, Nucor entered into a "Temporary Services Agency Agreement" ("the TSA Agreement") with Onin, a personnel-staffing agency, whereby Onin was to manage the employment of the technical-school students selected by Nucor for its internship program. Korey Ryan was a student at Shelton State Community College who applied for Nucor's internship program through Shelton State. In October 2014, Ryan was killed while working in the course of his duties at the Nucor facility. Ricky Edwards, a Nucor employee, directed Ryan to stand in a certain area in front of a water filter so that he would be clear of a moving crane. Edwards stated that he then turned his attention back to the load and began moving the crane. Ryan's right boot was struck by and became caught underneath the gearbox as the crane was moving. Ryan was dragged by the crane along the concrete floor through the narrow passageway between the crane and the warehouse wall, where he was crushed to death against a building support beam. Ryan's estate brought a wrongful-death action against Nucor; OSHA cited Nucor for a "serious" safety violation and fined it. Zurich issued a letter to Nucor and Onin in which it questioned whether the general-liability policy afforded coverage for the claims asserted in the wrongful-death action. Zurich noted that neither the indemnification provision in the TSA Agreement nor the additional-insured endorsement contained in the policy applied to in instances when the alleged "bodily injury" and/or "property damage" was caused by Nucor’s sole wrongful conduct. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the particular facts and circumstances underlying the wrongful- death action did not trigger the indemnification provision and the payment of an insurance benefit; rather, the facts and circumstances voided the indemnification provision altogether. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurance company. View "Nucor Steel Tuscaloosa, Inc. v. Zurich American Insurance Company et al." on Justia Law

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In 1989, the Hamel Fire Protection District and Alhambra Fire Protection District formed a joint venture, “the Service” to provide ambulance service to residents of both districts. In 2012, a Service-operated ambulance collided with a semi-truck. The semi-truck drivers and ambulance passengers were seriously injured. The accident produced three lawsuits that eventually settled. Continental paid all attorney’s fees assessed for Hamel Fire’s defenses. Country Mutual had issued a multiperil commercial lines insurance policy to the Service.. Hamel Fire was the named insured on the Continental policy. Continental defended Hamel Fire in each lawsuit after first tendering them to Country Mutual, which ignored each tender. The ambulance was a covered auto under policies issued by both, which provided primary coverage for owned autos and excess coverage for non-owned autos.Continental sued Country Mutual. The district court granted Continental’s motion for summary judgment finding that the Service, and not Hamel Fire, owned the ambulance. Based on that finding, and both policies’ “Other Insurance” clauses, the court determined that Country Mutual owed primary coverage for the costs to defend Hamel Fire in the underlying lawsuits, while Continental only owed excess coverage. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the evidence strongly reflects the parties’ intent that Country Mutual’s insured owned the ambulance. The resulting award of attorney’s fees under Illinois law was reasonable. View "Continental Western Insurance Co. v. Country Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law