The Tennessee Supreme Court has refused to construe an ambiguous definition of actual cash value to allow for deduction of labor costs as part of depreciation calculations where that subset of repair costs are not clearly addressed in the policy. Despite the split of authority nationwide, the Tennessee case presents a straightforward application of policy interpretation principles to a common valuation issue in first-party property claims.

Continue Reading Tennessee High Court Excludes Labor Costs from Insurer’s Actual Cash Value Depreciation Calculations

On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit found that Lloyd’s syndicates may not subrogate against an additional insured and may not force that additional insured to arbitration. Lloyd’s Syndicate 457 v. FloaTEC, LLC, No. 17-20550 (5th Cir. Apr. 17, 2019).

Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Twice-Addresses Impact of Master Services Agreement on Subrogation and Arbitrability Issues

The Eleventh Circuit has reversed an insurer’s award of summary judgment after finding that uncertainty about when the alleged property damage occurred raised questions about whether the damage came within the scope of the “Your Work” exclusion. More specifically, the court found unclear whether the damage occurred before or after the contractor abandoned the job, thereby triggering an exception to the “Your Work” exclusion for damage to work that had “not yet been completed or abandoned.”  The decision illustrates how timing can be a critical factor when it comes to triggering coverage for work and completed operations.

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Rules That Insurer Must Defend Contractor Despite “Your Work” Exclusion, Where Damage Timing Unclear

The Southern District of Georgia recently ruled that Evanston Insurance Company is not entitled to summary judgment on whether its policies’ pollution exclusion bars coverage for the release of nitrogen into a warehouse. The case stems from an incident at Xytex Tissue Services, LLC’s warehouse, where Xytex stored biological material at low temperatures. Xytex used an on-site “liquid nitrogen delivery system” to keep the material properly cooled. This system releases liquid nitrogen, which would vaporize into nitrogen gas and cool the biological material. On February 5, 2017, a Xytex employee, Deputy Greg Meagher, entered the warehouse to investigate activated motion detectors and burglar alarms. Deputy Meagher was overcome by nitrogen gas and died as a result. Following Deputy Meagher’s death, his heirs filed suit against Xytex and other defendants. Evanston denied coverage based on the pollution exclusion in its policy. Evanston then brought a declaratory judgment action to confirm its coverage position.

Continue Reading Georgia Federal Court Says Fact Questions Exist As To Whether Nitrogen Is An “Irritant” or “Contaminant” As Used in Pollution Exclusion

A recent First Circuit ruling underscores that a well-negotiated insurance policy can cover claims for which state law has no remedy. In Starr Surplus Lines Ins. Co. v. Mountaire Farms Inc., Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Company insured AdvancePierre Foods Inc., a maker of ready-to-eat lunches and sandwiches. In 2015, a string of salmonella outbreaks were linked to chicken in AdvancePierre’s products, prompting AdvancePierre to recall more than 1.7 million pounds of chicken. The recall cost AdvancePierre over $10 million, which Starr covered under AdvancePierre’s product-contamination policy.

Continue Reading Insurer’s Failed Subrogation Bid Has No Bearing on Merits of Policyholder’s Claim for Recall Damages

Hunton Andrews Kurth has selected Latosha Ellis, an associate in the firm’s Insurance Coverage practice, for the 2019 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) Pathfinder Program. Pathfinder is a national yearlong program that trains diverse, high performing, early-career attorneys in critical career development strategies, including foundational leadership and building professional networks.

Continue Reading Latosha Ellis Selected for 2019 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Pathfinder Program

On March 22, 2019, a federal judge in Michigan found in Alticor Global Holdings, Inc. v. America Int’l Specialty Lines Ins. Co., that claims of copyright infringement by several major record labels are potentially covered under liability policies issued by AIG.  Alticor involved a claim for coverage stemming from suits by a group of entertainment companies against Amway, “accusing it of infringing hundreds of copyrighted sound recordings.”  Amway sought coverage from its umbrella insurer, AIG.  AIG claimed that the personal injury and advertising injury coverage did not apply because “coverage extends only to advertisements of a Named Insured,” i.e., Amway, and the underlying suit related to advertisements of Amway independent business owners.

Continue Reading Michigan Federal Court Rules Advertising Injury Coverage Could Apply To Accusations Of Copyright Infringement

Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP partner Lorie Masters, partnering with insurance broker Marsh and others, analyzed the often complex issues raised by the insurance coverage actions posed by actions alleging violations of antitrust laws.  “Optimizing Antitrust Coverage in Private Company D&O Policies,” published by Marsh in Insights.  Investigations invoking antitrust laws raise the prospect of both civil and criminal liabilities. While most of these investigations are settled or resolved without findings of liability, the defense costs can be staggering.  Policyholders should consider whether directors and officers or other insurance applies to cover the costs coming out of such investigations.  To maximize coverage, policyholders should work with their advisors to ensure that policies are worded so as to enhance the prospects for obtaining insurance protection for claims alleging “antitrust violations.” 

 

In a March 6, 2019 article appearing in Law360, Hunton insurance team partner, Syed Ahmad, commented on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent reinforcement of a general liability insurer’s broad duty to defend in West Bend Mut. Ins. Co. v. Ixthus Med. Supply, Inc.  In the article, Ahmad noted that “the ruling puts some real teeth into the broad duty to defend standard.”  A deeper analysis of the decision is discussed in our March 8, 2019 blog post, in which we analyze the court’s reasoning behind its refusal to allow the insurer to escape its duty to defend by relying on the knowing violation and criminal acts

In a March 13, 2019 article appearing in Law360, Hunton Insurance team head, Walter Andrews, explains the adverse impact of a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that attempts to clarify the rules governing settlement of insured liability claims under Georgia law.  As Walter explains, however, the decision stands to hinder settlements and potentially subject innocent insureds to staggering liability beyond that covered by their insurance.  In First Acceptance Ins. Co. of Georgia, Inc. v. Hughes, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that policyholders must make a “valid offer” – that is, one that contains definite time limits and other terms – before an insurance company is required to settle.  As Walter told Law360, the court took “an overly narrow approach” that is “disturbing and is likely to act as a deterrent to settlements in the future.” He goes on to explain that insurance companies will actually have less incentive to settle, “which means that fewer cases will settle and cases will linger longer in court, which is not in the interests of either the injured parties or the insured defendants.”

Continue Reading Hunton Insurance Head, Walter Andrews, Discusses the Adverse Impact of Georgia’s Recent High Court “Bad Faith” Decision in First Acceptance