In 2008, Illinois enacted the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) to protect individuals’ privacy rights in their biometric information, including retina or iris scans, fingerprint, voiceprint, hand scans, facial geometry, DNA and other unique, identifying biological information. Companies are now paying hundreds of millions of dollars to settle employee and consumer suits for BIPA violations.
Commercial General Liability
Rejuvenation of Abuse Claims Sparks a Need to Evaluate Historical Liability Coverage
On April 11, 2023, Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed into law the Child Victims Act of 2023, allowing Maryland to join the growing number of states to rejuvenate previously time-barred lawsuits by victims of child sexual abuse against public school boards, government entities and private institutions. The Act also increases the statutory cap on civil damages for child sexual abuse—damages against public school boards and government entities are capped at $890,000 per incident, while per-incident damages against private institutions, including independent schools, are capped at $1.5 million. Maryland follows other states, like California and New York, which paved a path for abuse victims to bring previously time-barred claims based on alleged abuse that occurred decades earlier. Maryland is the first state, however, to pass this type of statute with a lookback period of infinite duration—meaning there is no limit for how long ago the alleged abuse occurred, and the statutes of limitation for lawsuits based on future acts of abuse are eliminated. Other states, such as New York and New Jersey, created limited lookback periods (one or two years), during which survivors were able to file previously time-barred claims. …
Continue Reading Rejuvenation of Abuse Claims Sparks a Need to Evaluate Historical Liability Coverage
Florida Enacts Sweeping Tort Reform Legislation, Raising Barriers to Insurance Coverage Claims
As discussed in a recent client alert, on March 24, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill (HB) 837 into law, making it more difficult and costly for insurance policyholders of all sizes to sue insurers for bad faith by eliminating fee-shifting for most policyholders and requiring something “more than” negligence for bad faith claims.
Continue Reading Florida Enacts Sweeping Tort Reform Legislation, Raising Barriers to Insurance Coverage Claims
PFAS Regulation and Insurance Coverage Implications
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (“PFAS”) are a class of substances that have increasingly become the target of federal and state regulation in everything from drinking water, groundwater, site contamination, waste, air emissions, firefighting foam, personal care products, food and food packaging, and now consumer and commercial products. PFAS are widely-used chemicals that have the unique ability to repel both oil and water, which led to their application in many products including items such as stain and water-repellent fabric, chemical-and oil-resistant coatings, food packaging materials, plastics, firefighting foam, solar panels and many others. The carbon-fluorine bond is the strongest in nature, making these compounds highly persistent in the environment.…
Continue Reading PFAS Regulation and Insurance Coverage Implications
Court Holds that Design and Manufacture of Allegedly Injurious Product is Only One Occurrence, In Win for Policyholders
On November 23, 2022, a federal court in Minnesota highlighted the importance of strategically approaching product liability claims, both in terms of their underlying defense and their insurability. In Federal Insurance Company v. 3M Company, No. 21-2093 (JRT/DTS), 2022 WL 17176889 (D. Minn. Nov. 23, 2022), the court rejected the insurer’s attempt to treat each underlying lawsuit as a separate occurrence, thereby maximizing per-occurrence deductibles, and instead found that the manufacture of the allegedly defective medical devices was the sole occurrence responsible for each of the lawsuits. 3M, therefore, was only required to pay a single deductible.…
Continue Reading Court Holds that Design and Manufacture of Allegedly Injurious Product is Only One Occurrence, In Win for Policyholders
Unanimous California Supreme Court Affirms Breadth of Policy-Interpretation Rules in Confirming That CGL Policies Cover TCPA Liabilities
In Yahoo, Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, PA., the California Supreme Court confirmed that contra proferentem and other rules of policy interpretation apply even to language insurers argue is “manuscript” as long as the provisions in question use standard-form policy terms. There, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit asked the California Supreme Court to answer a certified question regarding whether a commercial general liability policy (CGL) covers defense costs related to claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) (47 U.S.C. § 227). Following a thorough and thoughtful assessment of California law involving fundamental rules of policy interpretation, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the policyholder, Yahoo, Inc. (“Yahoo!”). The authors of this article represented amicus curiae, United Policyholders, in support of Yahoo! before the California Supreme Court. …
Continue Reading Unanimous California Supreme Court Affirms Breadth of Policy-Interpretation Rules in Confirming That CGL Policies Cover TCPA Liabilities
California Court Forces Insurer to Play Ball in COVID-19 Insurance Coverage Suit
One of the threshold issues in COVID-19 insurance coverage cases that have been brought across the country is whether the policyholder’s allegations meet the applicable pleading standard in alleging that the virus caused physical loss or damage. In many cases, the courts have gotten it wrong, effectively holding policyholders to a higher standard than required. But recently, a California federal judge righted those wrongs by acknowledging the correct pleading standard in that case, which is whether the allegations state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The Court, here, correctly recognized that the policyholder, the Los Angeles Lakers, met that pleading standard when it alleged that the COVID-19 virus can cause physical loss or damage by physically altering property.
Continue Reading California Court Forces Insurer to Play Ball in COVID-19 Insurance Coverage Suit
Kardashian Coverage Conundrums
Last week, Kim Kardashian settled with the SEC after the SEC announced charges against the social-media and reality TV star for promoting a crypto-currency token called EthereumMax, on her Instagram account, where she boasts more than 330 million followers, without disclosing that she received payment for the promotion. Kardashian agreed to pay $1.26 million in penalties, including the $250,000 EthereumMax paid her for promoting its crypto-tokens to potential investors. SEC Chair Gary Gensler stated that Kardashian’s case is “a reminder to celebrities and others that the law requires them to disclose to the public when and how much they are paid to promote investing in securities.”…
Continue Reading Kardashian Coverage Conundrums
“Imposed by Law”: Coverage for Contract-Based Liabilities
An oft-seen version of the insuring agreement in Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies provides that the insurance company will pay for “any and all sums” the policyholder is “legally obligated to pay” for liabilities “imposed by law” or “assumed under contract.” In an effort to disclaim coverage for liabilities arising out of or related to contract, insurers have argued that the prong for liabilities “imposed by law” refers to tort-based liabilities only, thus seeking to avoid liability with a relationship to contract. This argument, however, defies the plain insuring language defining how the CGL policies are triggered. This post explains why, under a proper reading of the insuring language, contract-based liabilities should qualify under the “imposed by law” prong of a CGL insuring agreement.
Continue Reading “Imposed by Law”: Coverage for Contract-Based Liabilities
New York Court Narrowly Interprets “Expected or Intended Injury” Exclusion in Win for Policyholder
NL Industries recently prevailed against its commercial general liability insurers in the New York Appellate Division in a noteworthy case regarding the meaning of “expected or intended” injury and the meaning of “damages” in a liability insurance policy. In Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London v. NL Industries, Inc., No. 2021-00241, 2022 WL 867910 (N.Y. App. Div. Mar. 24, 2022) (“NL Indus. II”), the Appellate Division held that exclusions for expected or intended injury required a finding that NL actually expected or intended the resulting harm; not merely have knowledge of an increased risk of harm. In addition, the court held that the funding of an abatement fund designed to prevent future harm amounted to “damages” in the context of a liability policy because the fund has a compensatory effect. NL Industries II is a reminder to insurers and policyholders alike that coverage is construed liberally and exclusions are construed narrowly towards maximizing coverage. …
Continue Reading New York Court Narrowly Interprets “Expected or Intended Injury” Exclusion in Win for Policyholder