Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries
Westfield Insurance Co. v. Sistersville Tank Works, Inc.
The Supreme Court concluded that under the continuous-trigger theory, when an insurance claim is made by alleging a progressive injury caused by chemical exposure or other analogous toxic, injurious substance, damages that are caused, continuous, or progressively deteriorating throughout successive policy periods are covered by all the occurrence-based policies in effect during those periods.This case involved claims against a standardized commercial general liability (CGL) policy alleging that long-term exposure to chemicals caused a disease to develop over a number of years before being diagnosed. The exposure to the chemicals and the development of the disease, however, happened across numerous CGL policy periods. Insurer denied coverage under its CGL policies and filed a complaint for declaratory relief. The district court granted a judgment in favor of Insured, finding that Insurer owed Insured a duty to defend and indemnify under all of its policies. The Supreme Court answered a certified question that, under the continuous-trigger theory, when a claim is made alleging a progressive injury caused by chemical exposure or other analogous harm, every occurrence-based policy in effect from the initial exposure, through the latency and development period and up to the manifestation of the bodily illness, is triggered and must cover the claim. View "Westfield Insurance Co. v. Sistersville Tank Works, Inc." on Justia Law
Government Employees Insurance Company, et al v. Glassco, Inc., et al
The Eleventh Circuit certified the following two questions to the Florida Supreme Court:(1) does Fla. Stat. § 559.921(1) grant an insurance company a cause of action when a repair shop does not provide any written repair estimate?(2) Do the violations here under the repair act void a repair invoice for completed windshield repairs and preclude a repair shop from being paid any of its invoiced amounts by an insurance company? View "Government Employees Insurance Company, et al v. Glassco, Inc., et al" on Justia Law
Accident Care & Treatment Center v. CSAA General Insurance Co.
Medical providers sued insurance company to enforce their perfected medical liens for professional services rendered to a person injured in a car accident. Insurance company disputed the: (1) reasonableness of the charges; and (2) necessity of the services. The providers argued the insurance company had no legal standing to dispute these issues, absent an assignment from the injured party. Although Insurance company prepared the "Release" with the injured person, it failed to include such an assignment. Insurance company argued that in spite of this omission, there was an "implied" assignment from the injured party as evidenced by precontract settlement discussions. The trial court ruled that there was no assignment in the executed written release and that insurance company was barred by the Parol Evidence Rule from presenting evidence to establish an implied assignment. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court holding that summary judgment was not proper when there was a question of fact surrounding the issue of an assignment. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found there was no assignment in the executed release and there was no question of fact on material issues. Without evidence of fraud, the Court found precontract negotiations and all discussions were merged into and superseded by the terms of an executed written release. The decision of the Court of Civil Appeals was vacated; and this matter was remanded to the trial court for proceedings. View "Accident Care & Treatment Center v. CSAA General Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Scott Fetzer Co. v. American Home Assurance Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals in this dispute arising out of environmental-cleanup and remediation work at two Superfund sites in Bronson, Michigan, holding that Restatement (Second) 193 does not govern the choice-of-law analysis for bad faith claims.Scott Fetzer Company filed this action asserting a breach of contract claim against certain insurance companies, including Travelers Casualty and Surety Company, alleging breaches of certain insurance contracts. Fetzer also asserted a tort claim against each company, arguing that they had acted in bad faith when handling his claims. As to Travelers, an administrative judge concluded that Ohio law applied to a discovery dispute concerning Scott Fetzer's bad faith claim. The court of appeals affirmed, determining that Ohio law governed the bad-faith discovery dispute because the cause of action was a tort. In affirming, the court applied the choice-of-law rules set forth in section 145 of the Restatement. Travelers appealed, arguing that section 193 governs the choice-of-law analysis for bad faith claims because they arise out of insurance contracts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly ruled that the choice-of-law analysis applicable to a bad-faith claim as provided by section 145. View "Scott Fetzer Co. v. American Home Assurance Co." on Justia Law
Ex parte Insurance Express, LLC, et al.
Petitioners Insurance Express, LLC ("Insurance Express"), Wayne Taylor, and Julie Singley sought a writ of mandamus to direct a circuit court to vacate an order staying the underlying action against defendants Lynne Ernest Insurance, LLC ("LEI"), Lynne Ernest, Chynna Ernest, and Deadra Stokley. According to the complaint, Lynne and Stokley were longtime employees of Insurance Express. It alleged that they, while still employed by Insurance Express, entered Insurance Express's office after business hours and, without authorization, made electronic copies of various business records related to Insurance Express's clients and insurance policies. Lynne and Stokley resigned soon after and began employment with LEI, which purportedly had been formed by Lynne and Chynna and was a direct competitor of Insurance Express. Lynne and Stokley, it is alleged, then induced some Insurance Express clients to transfer their policies to LEI. Insurance Express sought injunctive relief to, among other things, prevent defendants from communicating with past or current customers of Insurance Express and to require defendants to return any customer information taken by them. It further sought damages for breach of contract, conversion, intentional interference with business relations, breach of fiduciary duty, and civil conspiracy. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court found petitioners established they had a clear legal right to the relief they sought. The Court granted their petition and directed the trial court to vacate its order granting a stay. View "Ex parte Insurance Express, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Wood
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm") appealed a judgment entered against it on a jury verdict in an automobile-accident case. Brian Wood ("Brian") was driving through an intersection in Auburn when his vehicle was T-boned by a vehicle being driven by Mark Stafford. Brian and his wife Jennifer sued Stafford, an uninsured motorist, alleging claims of negligence, wantonness, and loss of consortium. Because Stafford was uninsured, the Woods also sued State Farm, their automobile-insurance company, seeking uninsured-motorist benefits under their policy. The jury returned a verdict in the Woods' favor, awarding them $700,000 in compensatory damages, and the trial court entered a judgment on that verdict. The jury did not award any punitive damages. State Farm filed a postjudgment motion challenging the judgment on various grounds, including whether the wantonness claim should have gone to the jury. The postjudgment motion was denied by operation of law, and State Farm appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded State Farm failed to establish the trial court erred by not setting aside its judgment entered on the jury's verdict, therefore the judgment was affirmed. View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Wood" on Justia Law
Monarch Casino & Resort v. Affiliated FM Insurance Company
Monarch Casino & Resort, Inc. appealed a district court’s grant of Affiliated FM Insurance Company’s (“AFM”) motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, which denied Monarch coverage under AFM’s all-risk policy provision, business-interruption provision, and eight other additional-coverage provisions. Monarch also moved the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to certify a question of state law or issue a stay. Monarch presented AFM with claims incurred through business interruption losses from COVID-19 and government orders directing Monarch to close its casinos. AFM denied certain coverage on the ground that COVID-19 did not cause physical loss of or damage to property. Monarch sued for breach of contract, bad faith breach of insurance contract, and violations of state law. The Tenth Circuit denied Monarch’s motions to certify a question of state law and issue a stay. And it affirmed the district court’s judgment: (1) AFM’s policy had a Contamination Exclusion provision that excludes all-risk coverage and business-interruption coverage from the COVID-19 virus; and (2) Monarch could not obtain coverage for physical loss or damage caused by COVID-19 under AFM’s all-risk provision, business-interruption provision, or eight additional-coverage provisions because the virus could not cause physical loss or damage and no other policy provisions distinguished this case. Accordingly, Monarch could not obtain the coverage that the district court denied. View "Monarch Casino & Resort v. Affiliated FM Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Dyno Nobel v. Steadfast Insurance Company
Explosives manufacturer Dyno Nobel tendered an action to its commercial general liability insurance policyholder, Steadfast Insurance Company (“Steadfast”), after being sued in Missouri for damages caused by the release of a nitric oxide plume from one of its Missouri plants. Steadfast denied the claim based on the insurance policy’s clauses precluding indemnification and defense of pollution-related bodily injury actions. Dyno Nobel thereafter filed an action in Utah state court seeking a declaratory judgment that Steadfast had a duty to indemnify and defend against this action under an endorsement titled “Vermont Changes – Pollution” (“Vermont Endorsement”). Contrary to Coverages A, B, and C in the insurance policy, the Vermont Endorsement would have required Steadfast to defend and indemnify against pollution-related bodily injury claims up to an aggregate amount of $3 million. Steadfast removed the action to federal court, and the federal district court entered judgment for Steadfast, concluding the Vermont Endorsement applied only to claims with a nexus to Vermont. Dyno Nobel appealed. After its review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, finding the plain language of the insurance contract did not cover Dyno Nobel’s claim in the underlying action. View "Dyno Nobel v. Steadfast Insurance Company" on Justia Law
In re Estate of Ronan
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court issuing an order awarding the Estate of Thomas Ronan the insurance proceeds of a house that was destroyed by fire, holding that the district court did not err.When Janet Le Ora Ronan died, she left a holographic will specifically devising her interest in a farm to Thomas "with him having preference to keeping the house [and] farmstead...." After the district court adopted a stipulated settlement agreement (SSA) setting forth the terms as to how to distribute the estate the house was destroyed in a fire. Thomas later died. Appellants had previously insured the house with Janet's estate as the insurance beneficiary, and the insurance company issued $169,089 for the house and $15,250 for personal property destroyed in the fire. The district court relied on the doctrine of equitable conversion to award Thomas's estate the insurance money. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in distributing the insurance proceeds according to Montana residuary law or the SSA; and (2) did not err by relying on the doctrine of equitable conversion to distribute the insurance proceeds in furtherance of Janet's intent in specifically devising the house to Thomas. View "In re Estate of Ronan" on Justia Law
Positano Place at Naples I Condominium Association, Inc. v. Empire Indemnity Insurance Company
These appeals are about a pending insurance contract dispute between Positano Place at Naples I Condominium Association, Inc., and Empire Indemnity Insurance Company, which issued an insurance policy (the “Policy”) to Positano for coverage of five buildings that Positano owns in Naples, Florida. Following Hurricane Irma, Positano filed a first-party claim for property insurance benefits under the Policy, claiming that Hurricane Irma damaged its property and that the damage was covered by the Policy. Empire determined that there was coverage to only three of the five buildings covered by the Policy but disagreed as to the amount of the loss. Positano sought to invoke appraisal based on the Policy’s appraisal provision. Positano sued Empire in Florida state court, and Empire removed the case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. Positano moved to compel appraisal and to stay the case pending the resolution of the appraisal proceedings, which Empire opposed. The magistrate judge issued a report recommending that the district court grant Positano’s motion, and, over Empire’s objection, the district court ordered the parties to appraisal and stayed the proceedings pending appraisal. Empire timely appealed the district court’s order. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal. The court concluded that the district court’s order compelling appraisal and staying the proceedings pending appraisal is an interlocutory order that is not immediately appealable under 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(a)(1). The court concluded that the order compelling appraisal and staying the action pending appraisal is not immediately appealable under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). View "Positano Place at Naples I Condominium Association, Inc. v. Empire Indemnity Insurance Company" on Justia Law