In this post in the Blog’s Landmark Montana Supreme Court Decision Series, we discuss the court’s ruling on the pollution exclusion in National Indemnity Co. v. State, 499 P.3d 516 (Mont. 2021).

The exclusion at issue was the standard qualified pollution exclusion used in some CGL policies in the mid-1970s. It excluded coverage for:

bodily injury or property damage arising out of the discharge, dispersal, release or escape of smoke, vapors, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, toxic chemicals, liquids or gases, waste materials or other irritants, contaminants or pollutants into or upon land, the atmosphere or any water course or body of water; but this exclusion does not apply if such discharge, dispersal, release or escape is sudden and accidental. Continue Reading Landmark Montana Supreme Court Decision Series: Pollution Exclusion

While COVID-19 dominated the insurance coverage landscape in 2021, it was not the only subject of significant decisions in the insurance space. Directors and Officers coverage (“D&O”) and cyber insurance continued to make headlines while other coverage lines left the industry questioning what is to come in 2022. In our recently published “Year in Review: Top Insurance Cases of 2021,” we highlight a few of the most impactful trends and cases in 2021 and look forward to what 2022 may deliver in the world of insurance coverage. A copy of the full publication can be found here.

Hunton insurance attorneys, Walter Andrews, Andrea DeField, and Sima Kazmir, recently published an article in the Daily Business Review, discussing the scrutiny that companies face as a result of increased cyberattacks as well as tips for your next cyber insurance renewal.

A recent U.S. Treasury Department report noted that through June 30, 2021, the total value of suspicious activity associated with ransomware transactions was $590 million. The standalone cyber insurance industry has grown to address this pervasive risk. These major shifts in the cyber landscape mean that companies must address increased scrutiny from both regulators and insurers.

A survey of recent regulatory and insurer trends provides meaningful lessons for companies looking to mitigate cyberattack risks using their insurance portfolio. The article discusses how a company can leverage existing policies and ensure the most robust available coverage at renewal.

In one of the top insurance-coverage decisions of 2021, the Montana Supreme Court at the end of the year handed down a landmark decision adopting the continuous trigger of coverage and “all sums” allocation, finding a duty to defend and ruling that the qualified, or “sudden and accidental” pollution exclusion did not apply. Nat’l Indem. Co. v. State, 499 P.3d 516 (Mont. 2021). The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reserved in part the rulings entered by the trial court, largely upholding a $98,000,000 judgment for the State against its CGL insurer for the policy years 1973 to 1975. The ruling thus helps ensure coverage for the hundreds of claims alleging that the State had failed to warn claimants of the dangers of asbestos exposures to workers in vermiculite mining and milling operations in Libby, Montana, operated by W. R. Grace (the “Libby Mine”).

Continue Reading Landmark Montana Supreme Court Decision Series: Trigger and Allocation

From event-driven litigation and event cancellations to securities claims and regulatory enforcement actions, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a number of directors and officers liability exposures extending far beyond business interruption losses. The first wave of COVID-19 securities suits, for example, focused on allegations that companies made false and misleading statements or failed to disclose in securities filings how they responded to the pandemic (in the case of several cruise lines) or stood to benefit from it (in the case of pharmaceutical companies). Most, but not all, of those suits were dismissed on early motions. In all cases, however, those companies and individuals would have benefited from robust D&O liability insurance coverage.

Continue Reading New Year, New COVID-19 Securities Claims Present Continued D&O Exposures

2022 has kicked off with several new whistleblower awards, as the SEC announced earlier this week that it had awarded more than $4 million to whistleblowers who provided information and assistance in two government actions—one for misconduct occurring overseas and a second where the whistleblower’s assistance directly led to the success of the covered action.

Continue Reading Following Record-Setting Year, SEC Opens 2022 With $4 Million in New Whistleblower Awards: Is Your D&O Policy Prepared to Respond?

In an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, a private equity firm has asked the court to reverse an order finding there was no coverage for a suit alleging it concealed that a facility it sold was run by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. AKN Holdings had purchased a manufacturing facility in Reynosa, Mexico, from Thermo Fisher, unaware that the facility “was overrun” by the drug cartel of “El Chapo.” After discovering the concealment, AKN Holdings sued Thermo Fisher and, while that suit was pending, in turn sold the facility to FINSA, also without disclosing the cartel activities or its pending lawsuit.

Continue Reading Prison Break: Insurer Seeks to Escape Coverage for Suit Tied to “El Chapo”

Another state court has issued a ruling favoring insurance policyholders in a COVID-19 business interruption dispute. This decision further confirms the trend of state courts recognizing the potential for coverage where many federal courts have not.

Continue Reading Another State Court Rules That Insurers Cannot Escape COVID-19

Even an insurance practitioner’s grandmother would agree that an omitted comma can have dire consequences: compare “Let’s eat grandma with “Let’s eat, grandma.”  Yet, to the possible dismay of grammar purists and grandmothers, alike, and despite acknowledging that “the placement (or omission) of one comma can make the difference,” a federal court recently found that an omitted comma in an insurance policy provision had no impact on the policy’s meaning.

Continue Reading Grammatical Imprecision Continues to Fuel Coverage Disputes

A New Mexico court recently granted judgment on the pleadings against an insurer and found coverage, reminding the insurer that different words in a policy, indeed, have different meanings.

In Power of Grace, LLC v. Weatherby, Power of Grace, a policyholder, sued its insurer, Hudson Insurance Companies, and its insurance agent, Weatherby-Eisenrich Inc.  Power of Grace alleged that Weatherby and Hudson were liable for damages it might incur in an underlying wrongful death lawsuit arising from a tractor-trailer accident.

Continue Reading Tomato-Tomato? – New Mexico Court Offers Insurer a $5 Million Reminder that Different Words Have Different Meanings