The Central District of California recently rejected an attempt by Federal Insurance Company, a Chubb company, to avoid its duty to defend its insureds in an $8.5 million lawsuit with a former employee.

TriPacific Capital Advisors, LLC acquired Directors and Officers (D&O) coverage from Federal and Employment Practices Liability (EPL) coverage from Travelers Insurance Company. While those policies were in effect, a former TriPacific employee sued the company and its president, Geoffrey Fearns, for a variety of employment-related causes of action concerning his termination and compensation. TriPacific and Fearns tendered notice to both insurers, seeking indemnification and defense costs. Both policies contained a duty to defend.  While Travelers agreed to defend under a reservation of rights, Federal denied coverage based on multiple grounds, including its policy’s “other insurance” provision, contending that the provision rendered its policy “excess” to the Travelers policy.  Federal also argued that TriPacific had not satisfied the D&O policy’s $150,000 self-insured retention and, thus, coverage had not been implicated, in any event. TriPacific maintained that neither the SIR nor the “other insurance” provision pertained to Federal’s duty to defend and brought suit to enforce the duty to defend.
Continue Reading Potential Coverage Garners Total Defense: “Other Insurance” Provision Does Not Relieve Insurer’s Duty to Defend

Last month, the US District Court for the District of Connecticut granted an insurer’s motion for summary judgment in the case of Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA, No. 3:19cv839 (JBA), finding that there was no coverage under a directors & officers policy for defense costs associated with responding to a government subpoena. Last week, in line with our commentary, which highlighted several critical flaws in the court’s initial ruling, the court reversed itself and granted reconsideration, finding that there actually is coverage.
Continue Reading Court Corrects its Own Error in Win for D&O Policyholders

A D.C. federal judge recently held that an insurer could be responsible to a TV station for more than $25 million in an underlying malpractice suit where the insurer failed to send timely notice preserving its rights under the policy in violation of a Virginia statute.

Continue Reading Insurer Can’t Mute TV Station’s Recovery for $25 Million Malpractice Claim

Deciding that certain damages claimed by the underlying case plaintiff were covered “Loss” under a professional services policy, the Eleventh Circuit determined that AEGIS must pay to defend a Georgia landlord in a class action for wrongful failure to return tenants’ security deposits under O.C.G.A. § 44-7-35(c).  The policy defined “Loss” as “a compensatory monetary amount for which the Insured may be held legally liable, including judgments . . . awards, or settlements,” but specifically excluded:

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Determines AEGIS Must Defend Landlord in Security Deposit Class Action

The Ohio Court of Appeals on June 24 enforced liability insurance for a company that had distributed opiates, finding that the insured had a duty to defend the insured in lawsuits filed by government agencies and pending in the Opioid Multidistrict Litigation.  Acuity v. Masters Pharm., No. C-190176 (Ohio Ct. App. June 24, 2020).  A unanimous three-judge panel overturned a trial court decision that had accepted arguments of insurers that, because the underlying suits were brought by government entities seeking to recover for “their own economic loss,” the damages sought did not qualify as “damages because of or for a ‘bodily injury.’” Relying on the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. H.D. Smith, L.L.C., 829 F.3d 771 (7th Cir. 2016), the Court of Appeals acknowledged that “[t]he governmental entities are seeking their own economic losses,” but concluded that some losses at issue “(such as medical expenses and treatment costs) are arguably ‘because of’ bodily injury,” bringing policyholder claims “potentially within the policies’ coverage.”  Slip op. ¶ 30.  The trial court thus had erred in finding that the insurer had no duty to defend in the underlying opioid cases.

Continue Reading Insurers Have Duty to Defend Opioid Cases According to Ohio Appellate Court

The Fourth Circuit recently held that an insurance company was obligated to cover millions in legal fees incurred in defending an employment suit against the owners of DARCARS, a DC-area based car dealership. The court ruled that the relevant policy exclusion was ambiguous and, as a result, construed the exclusion narrowly against the insurer and in favor of coverage.

Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Affirms Ruling That Insurer Must Pay Millions For Breaching Duty to Defend

In responding to a certified question from the Fifth Circuit in Richards v. State Farm Lloyds, the Texas Supreme Court held that the “policy-language exception” to the eight-corners rule articulated by the federal district court is not a permissible exception under Texas law.  See Richards v. State Farm Lloyds, 19-0802, 2020 WL 1313782, at *1 (Tex. Mar. 20, 2020).  The eight-corners rule generally provides that Texas courts may only consider the four corners of the petition and the four corners of the applicable insurance policy when determining whether a duty to defend exists.  State Farm argued that a “policy-language exception” prevents application of the eight-corners rule unless the insurance policy explicitly requires the insurer to defend “all actions against its insured no matter if the allegations of the suit are groundless, false or fraudulent,” relying on B. Hall Contracting Inc. v. Evanston Ins. Co., 447 F. Supp. 2d 634, 645 (N.D. Tex. 2006).  The Texas Supreme Court rejected the insurer’s argument, citing Texas’ long history of applying the eight-corners rule without regard for the presence or absence of a “groundless-claims” clause.

Continue Reading Staying the Course, Texas Supreme Court Rejects Insurer’s Argument for Exception to Eight-Corners Rule in Determining Duty to Defend

In a prior post, we predicted that novel coronavirus (COVID-19) risks could implicate D&O and similar management liability coverage arising from so-called “event-driven” litigation, a new kind of securities class action that relies on specific adverse events, rather than fraudulent financial disclosures or accounting issues, as the catalyst for targeting both companies and their directors and officers for the resulting drop in stock price. It appears that ship has sailed, so to speak, as Kevin LaCroix at D&O Diary reported over the weekend that a plaintiff shareholder had filed a securities class action lawsuit against Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd. alleging that the company employed misleading sales tactics related to the outbreak.

Continue Reading All Aboard! COVID-19 Securities Suit Sets Sail, Implicates D&O Insurance

Hunton Insurance partners Syed Ahmad and Michael Levine were interviewed by Law360 for its year-end article discussing the top insurance rulings in 2019, for their insights on two of the year’s biggest insurance decisions.

Continue Reading Hunton Insurance Partners Ahmad and Levine Comment to Law360 on 2019’s Top Insurance Rulings

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.
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Says Contract Exclusion Renders E&O Coverage Illusory