The Seventh Circuit held last week that a manufacturer’s insurer must cover its insured, a designer and builder of anaerobic digesters, under its errors and omissions policy for claims alleging breach of contract, despite an exclusion in the policy for claims arising out of the breach of an express or oral contract. The decision in Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Company v. DVO, Inc., No. 18-2571 (7th Cir. Sept. 23, 2019), illustrates the practical application of policy construction to avoid what would otherwise amount to an illusory promise of coverage.
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In an insurance coverage action pending in the S.D.N.Y., Hunt Construction Group (Hunt) contends that Berkley Assurance Company wrongfully denied defense coverage for claims arising out of the renovation of Hard Rock Stadium (home to the Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes football teams).

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A Massachusetts federal court ruled last week that Allied World Insurance Co. must pay for a Boston law firm’s defense of counterclaims asserted against it in a lawsuit over, among other things, the proper ownership of client files and materials.

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On August 6, 2019, Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance lawyers Walter J. Andrews and Daniel Hentschel discussed the effect of eroding insurance policies in an article appearing in Florida’s Daily Business Review. The full article is available here. In the article, the authors discuss the potential risks associated with the use of eroding insurance policies

A Delaware court held that an appraisal action, which includes $39 million in attorneys’ fees, prejudgment interest, and costs incurred in defending litigation that arose out of Solera Holdings Inc.’s acquisition by Vista Equity Partners LP, constitutes a covered “securities claim” under Solera’s directors and officers liability insurance policy.

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The Texas Supreme Court has reversed a lower appellate court decision and found that insurers of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. cannot use their own policy wording to avoid coverage for more than $100 million of Anadarko’s defense costs stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Law360 interviewed Hunton’s Sergio F. Oehninger about the substantial impact the decision will have for policyholders in Texas and elsewhere.  Oehninger explained how the decision corrects fundamental errors by the lower court in the construction of insurance policies and how it illustrates the proper way to construe words chosen by the insurer that operate to limit or preclude coverage.  In the Anadarko matter, the London market policy contained a “joint venture” provision that capped joint venture liabilities at $37.5 million.  The insures applied the cap after paying that amount to Anadarko.  The Texas Supreme Court rejected the insurers’ argument and the decision of the court below, finding that the joint venture provision applies only to “liabilities” – that is, amounts Anadarko becomes legally obligated to pay to a third party.  Defense costs, in contrast, are not amounts paid to a third party and, thus, are not “liabilities” within the context of the joint venture provision.  The Court also drew on other policy provisions to support the distinction, including provisions that specifically refer separately to “liabilities” and “defense expenses.”  “The Texas Supreme Court’s reversal of the appellate panel’s ruling serves as a clear pronouncement of both insurance policy construction rules and proper appellate review in Texas,” Oehninger said.  “In this regard, the Supreme Court’s opinion serves to ‘right the ship’ and bring Texas case law back in line with precedent.”

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Summary

Reversing a Texas Court of Appeals decision that allowed Anadarko’s Lloyd’s of London excess insurers to escape coverage for more than $100 million in defense costs incurred in connection with claims from the Deepwater Horizon well blowout, the Supreme Court of Texas held that the insurers’ obligations to pay defense costs under an “energy package” liability policy are not capped by a joint venture coverage limit for “liability” insured.  Anadarko Petroleum Corp. et al. v. Houston Casualty Co. et al., No. 16-1013 (Tex. Jan. 25, 2019).


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In Zurich American Insurance Co. v. Don Buchwald & Associates, Inc., 2018 N.Y. Slip. Op. 33325(U) (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County, Dec. 21, 2017), the Supreme Court of New York held that Zurich was obligated to defend a talent and literary agency against claims brought by Hulk Hogan alleging that the agency aided and abetted one of its agents—Tony Burton—in publishing racist and sexual footage of Hulk Hogan online.  The decision also gives ammunition to policyholders seeking to recover their fees incurred while litigating against an insurer’s improper denial of coverage.  The court found that the insureds had “been cast in a defensive posture” due to the insurer’s claims seeking a declaratory judgment, and that this justified a fee-shifting award.

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Policyholders facing any type of products liability scored a win in a recent decision from the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  The court found that an insurance company must defend its insured against claims arising out of a recall while simultaneously funding the insured’s affirmative claims for recovery.

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