The Hawaii Supreme Court emphatically rejected insurer efforts to seek reimbursement of defense costs absent a provision in the policy providing for such reimbursement in St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company v. Bodell Construction Company, No. SCCQ-22-0000658, 2023 WL 7517083, (Haw. Nov. 14, 2023). The state high court’s well-reasoned decision rests on bedrock law regarding insurance policy construction and application, follows the nationwide trend of courts compelling insurers to satisfy their contractual obligations in full, and should carry great weight as other jurisdictions continue to debate the same issue.Continue Reading Hawaii Supreme Court Says Aloha to Insurers Trying to Recoup Defense Costs From Policyholders

Major sneaker brands have capitalized on new trends in technology and social media to hype sneaker culture. As sneakers become more popular, sneaker collections increase in value, thus increasing financial exposure for collectors and other entities in the sneaker industry. One might first think of theft, authentication, fire, floods, or market valuation as the general risks associated with sneaker collections. But many sneaker companies have made headlines over the past few years with numerous lawsuits against other sneaker companies and entities with issues ranging from traditional patent battles to exhaustive fights against counterfeiters. Often overlooked by collectors and sneaker companies alike, insurance can and does play a critical role in helping both collectors and companies faced with unexpected liability related to sneaker culture.Continue Reading Solefully Designed: Insurance Coverage in the Sneaker Industry

We recently posted about Nevada becoming the first state to prohibit defense-within-limits provisions in liability insurance policies. Defense-within-limits provisions—resulting in what is called “eroding” or “wasting” policies—reduce the policy’s applicable limit of insurance by amounts the insurer pays to defend the policyholder against a claim or suit. Continue Reading Nevada’s Changing Liability Insurance Landscape—State Insurance Regulator Issues Emergency Regulation and Guidance Addressing Controversial “Defense-Within-Limits” Legislation

Whether an insurer has a right to reimburse defense costs after a finding that it has no duty to defend remains an open question in Georgia. However, in Continental Casualty Co., et al. v. Winder Laboratories, LLC, et al., Case No. 21-11758 (11th Cir. Jul. 13, 2023), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has weighed in with its prediction on the likely answer. Persuaded by the logic of other jurisdictions that, “wide-ranging reimbursement is necessarily inappropriate in a system—like Georgia’s—that is predicated on a broad duty to defend and a more limited duty to indemnify,” the Eleventh Circuit predicted that, “the Supreme Court of Georgia would follow that logic to adopt a ‘no recoupment’ rule to protect its insurance system.”  Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Rejects Implicit Right to Reimbursement of Defense Costs Under Georgia Law

Nevada recently became the first state to prohibit defense-within-limits provisions in liability insurance policies. Defense-within-limits provisions—resulting in what’s called “eroding” or “wasting” policies—reduce the policy’s applicable limit of insurance by amounts the insurer pays to defend the policyholder against a claim or suit. These provisions are commonly included in errors and omissions (E&O), directors and officers (D&O) and other management liability policies. This is in contrast to other policies, most commonly commercial general liability policies, which provide defense “outside of limits” where defense costs do not reduce the policy’s limit. Continue Reading An Uncharted Frontier: Nevada First State to Prohibit Defense-Within-Limits Provisions

Directors and officers should take note of a recent decision from the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York concerning access to D&O insurance policy proceeds.  In In re SVB Financial Group, Case No. 23-10367 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. May 22, 2023)[1], the Bankruptcy Court found cause to lift the automatic stay to allow directors and officers to access the proceeds of SVB Financial Group’s (“SVB”) directors and officers (“D&O”) insurance policies to pay for legal costs incurred in responding to investigations and defending litigation.  Moreover, it declined to impose a “soft cap” on the advance of defense costs. Continue Reading Hard on Soft Caps – Bankruptcy Court Declines to Limit Access to D&O Insurance

In what is an unfortunate sign of the times, Springpoint Senior Living, Inc. recently sued its insurers in New Jersey federal court claiming they abruptly stopped covering Springpoint’s defense costs after doing so for nearly a decade.  A copy of the complaint can be found here. Springpoint’s allegations are emblematic of a growing trend among insurers taking drastic measures to avoid coverage, which is no doubt in response to the tightening economic conditions and looming recession around the globe. 
Continue Reading A Sign of the Times: Policyholder Forced to Sue Insurers to Resume Payment of Defense Costs

One of the most valuable aspects of liability insurance is defense coverage, which protects policyholders from significant costs to defend against and litigate claims that may never result in a judgment or settlement. Companies and their directors and officers can incur thousands or even millions of dollars in defending against claims that are resolved long before trial. Even after purchasing robust defense coverage and getting an insurer to defend a claim, however, companies may be surprised when months or even years later the insurer reverses its position and not only withdraws from the defense but also demands repayment of all defense costs paid to date. A recent case, Evanston Insurance Co. v. Winstar Properties, Inc. No. 218CV07740RGKKES, 2022 WL 1309843 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 14, 2022), shows the perils of insurer “recoupment” and underscores the importance of assessing insurer recoupment rights, if any, throughout the claims process.
Continue Reading It’s Payback Time: California Ruling Highlights Recoupment Risks in Liability Claims

In 1938, a DuPont chemist’s experiment yielded not—as he first thought—a lumpen, waxy mistake, but a new chemical with remarkable properties: heat-resistance, chemical stability, and low surface friction. Decades of continuing experimentation yielded a class of chemicals with the capacity to make non-stick, water-resistant coatings. In time, these chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), would become a major component in thousands of consumer goods: food packaging, non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, paint, stain-resistant carpets and furniture, and firefighting foams. The discovery of the toxicity of these remarkable chemicals lagged behind the widespread adoption, but eventually yielded a moniker that reflected PFAS’s stability and longevity: “Forever Chemicals.”
Continue Reading PFAS: From Happy Mistake to Ubiquity to Toxic Liability (But is there coverage?)

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