At present, the general rule is that an insurer that breaches its duty to defend still may contest coverage. Signature Dev. Companies, Inc. v. Royal Ins. Co. of Am., 230 F.3d 1215, 1222 (10th Cir. 2000). However, the tides may soon change. The Discussion Draft of the Restatement of the Law on Liability Insurance proposes that “[a]n insurer that breaches the duty to defend a claim loses the right to assert any control over the defense or settlement of the claim and the right to contest coverage for the claim.” See § 19, “Consequences of Breach of the Duty to Defend, ALI Restatement of the Law: Liability Insurance, Discussion Draft (April 30, 2015), p. 147. The proposed Restatement explains, “[t]he forfeiture-of-coverage-defense rule discourages insurers from attempting to convert a duty-to-defend policy into an after-the-fact defense-cost-reimbursement policy.” Id. at 148. The Restatement further explains that insurers should be wary to outright deny a defense. Rather, it suggests that “[t]he proper procedure is to provide a defense subject to a reservation of rights and then, if appropriate, institute a declaratory-judgment action to terminate the duty to defend…If the insurer cannot, or does not choose to, file a declaratory-judgment action, it can preserve its coverage defenses by refusing to settle the claim while continuing to provide a defense (subject to the risks attendant to breach of the duty to make reasonable settlement decisions).” Id. at 149.1
1This post is an excerpt from the written materials prepared for my upcoming presentation on insurer bad faith at the National CLE Conference in Vail, Colorado, on January 6. For more information or to register for the conference, please visit http://nationalcleconference.com.