On November 2, 2016, a federal judge in California ruled that a Real Estate Property Managed endorsement in policies issued to a real estate manager negated a standard policy exclusion, but also rendered the policies excess to other available insurance. The case involved a dispute over coverage for a bodily injury claim involving “Pigeon Breeders Disease,” allegedly contracted due to the insured’s failure to keep pigeons away from a condo complex’s rooftop HVAC units. The plaintiff sued the property owners, Jerry and Betty Lee, and the property manager, Sierra Pacific Management Co. Inc. (Sierra Pacific).
On November 14, 2016, a federal judge in California denied summary judgment to Hanover Insurance Co. (Hanover), finding that class claims alleging a failure to reimburse reasonable business expenses were not excluded by a “wage-and-hour” exclusion contained in EPLI policies issued by Hanover. The lawsuit, brought by a former student of the Bellus Academy beauty school, alleged that Poway Academy (the owner of Bellus) and Beauty Boutique, Inc. (BBI) (operator of two other schools under the “Bellus” name), failed to compensate students for working on paying clients at an onsite salon and also failed to reimburse them for out-of-pocket costs to purchase necessary supplies. The lawsuit alleged a variety of wage-related claims. The lawsuit also alleged that the schools failed to reimburse necessary business expenses in violation of Section 2802 of the California Labor Code.
As first reported yesterday by my colleague Michael Levine, Tesco Bank (owned by Britain’s biggest retailer) stopped online transactions on Monday after hackers stole money from 9,000 accounts. Tesco Bank has begun refunds, the total cost of which will exceed $3 million. Experts estimate that the biggest hit to the bank will come in the form of reputational damage.
The owner of a fire-damaged warehouse in Florida is battling in the Fifth Circuit to revive a claim alleging that a broker and insurer negligently failed to procure adequate insurance for the warehouse—by arguing that the lower court should have applied a different state’s law to its summary judgment determination. The warehouse owner leased the warehouse to a Florida-based produce distributor, which in turn procured a $5 million insurance policy from Alterra American Insurance Co. A fire later caused $10 million worth of damage to the warehouse, toward which Alterra paid the $5 million policy limit.
Retailer Tesco Plc’s banking branch reported earlier this week that £2.5 million (approximately $3 million) had been stolen from 9,000 customer bank accounts over the weekend in what cyber experts said was the first mass hacking of accounts at a western bank. The reported loss is still being investigated by UK authorities but is believed to have occurred through the bank’s online banking system. The loss, which is about half of what Tesco initially estimated, is still substantial and serves as a strong reminder that cyber-related losses are a real threat to retailers and other industries. According to reports, Tesco Bank spent £500 million (approximately $618 million) building up its technology platform over the past seven years. Even that very substantial expenditure was not enough, however, to prevent the recent hack, further illustrating the need for robust cyber insurance as a component of any comprehensive cyber protection program.
On November 9, 2016, my colleagues Syed Ahmad, Shawn Regan and Shannon Shaw, published an article in Corporate Counsel discussing a recent decision from New York’s highest court that may impact the exchange of information between policyholders and their insurers. The article addresses the impact of Ambac Assurance v. Countrywide Home Loans, in which the New York Court of Appeals held that an attorney-client communication disclosed to a third party during the period between the signing and closing of a merger will remain privileged only if the communication relates to a common legal interest in a pending or anticipated litigation. The ruling represents a restrictive reading of the common interest doctrine despite a recent trend among federal and state courts to broaden the doctrine to remove any litigation requirement.
On November 4, my colleagues Michael Levine and Matthew McLellan provided commentary for Westlaw about the Fifth Circuit’s recent decision in Apache Corp. v. Great American Insurance Co., No. 15-20499, 2016 WL 6090901 (5th Cir. Oct. 18, 2016), on which Michael Levine had previously written a blog post. In the Westlaw Journal: Computer and Internet, Mike and Matt discussed a frustrating gap in coverage for “computer fraud” that may be found in some crime policies. They encourage policyholders to review their legacy and cyber policies to ensure that complex cyber risks are actually covered. Read their commentary and the associated article here
On October 27, 2016, my colleague, Michael S. Levine, was quoted in Business Insurance concerning the recent decision in Camp’s Grocery Inc. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., which he and I discussed on October 26, 2016 on the Hunton & Williams LLP Insurance Recovery Blog. In Camp’s, the court refused to find coverage under legacy property and liability policies for third-party liabilities arising from the hacking of a point-of-sale network and the resulting breach of bank card and other data. Mike’s comments on the risk of relying on legacy coverage for cyber protection and the increasing need to identify gaps between forms that purport to address potential cyber liabilities. If you have questions about the case, or about your cyber coverage, contact Mike or any member of our or Insurance Coverage Counseling and Litigation team for more information.
On August 15, we wrote a blog post (which can be accessed here) about how the Eleventh Circuit certified to the Florida Supreme Court the issue of whether Florida’s pre-suit process in contractor cases, under Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes, constitutes a “suit” under CGL policy language, which would trigger the insurer’s duty to defend. On October 25, various construction trade organizations and a nonprofit policyholder advocacy group, United Policyholders, urged the Florida Supreme Court to rule in favor of Altman Contractor Inc.’s (“Altman”) interpretation that a construction defect notice issued under Chapter 558 constitutes a “suit” under CGL policies because such a reading would promote insureds and insurers to resolve disputes with the underlying plaintiff out of court and because CGL policies should be construed broadly to provide coverage for pre-litigation proceedings.
On March 31 and April 15, we wrote blog posts (which can be accessed here and here) about a D.C. federal judge’s decision to rescind MetLife’s systematically important financial institution (SIFI) status. On October 24, a D.C. Circuit three-judge panel heard oral argument of the appeal of that decision. The federal government advocated to reinstate MetLife’s “too big to fail” designation by arguing that regulators were not required to prove the insurance giant was likely to collapse before imposing enhanced federal oversight. Conversely, attorneys for MetLife argued that the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) acted arbitrarily by not partaking in any threshold analysis of how MetLife would be vulnerable to a financial collapse.