A California federal court found coverage under AIG’s general liability policy for the defense and indemnity of email scanning suits against Yahoo!. Those suits generally alleged that Yahoo! profited off of scanning its users’ emails. Because the allegations gave rise to the possibility that Yahoo! disclosed private content to a third party, the court found that the suit potentially fell within the coverage for “oral or written publication, in any manner, of material that violates a person’s right of privacy.” Thus, AIG’s duty to defend was triggered.

The court also found that AIG had a duty to indemnify for Yahoo!’s settlement in the email scanning suits. One key question was whether the settlement amount paid as attorneys’ fees to plaintiff’s counsel constituted damages under the policy. The court concluded that they were, based on the fact that the plaintiffs sought attorneys’ fees under a statute and on its finding that Yahoo! would reasonably expect that those fees would qualify as damages.

Yahoo! had also alleged that AIG acted in bad faith in its claims handling because AIG had denied coverage for the first two lawsuits and then ultimately acknowledged such an obligation with respect to the third lawsuit and in so doing had cited exclusions that were not a part of the policy. The court found that issue was one for a jury to decide.

This decision is another example that valuable cyber coverage for defense and indemnification may be available under general liability policies. Of course, whether there is coverage will depend on the particulars of the claim and the insurance policy.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently construed the undefined term “advertising idea” in a case of first impression in the Commonwealth, holding that a footwear company’s insurers must provide a defense against an underlying claim alleging unfair use of a former Olympian’s name to promote a line of running shoes.

Continue Reading Massachusetts High Court Says Use of Olympian’s Name Is Covered “Advertising Idea,” Not An Excluded IP Violation

North Dakota’s highest court delivered a blow to Mid-Continent Casualty Company in Borsheim Builders Supply, Inc. v. Manger Insurance Co., ruling that a contract between a policyholder and general contractor fit the insured contract exception of contractual liability.

Continue Reading North Dakota Supreme Court Clarifies Breadth of Contractual Liability Coverage

Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance practice head, Walter Andrews, recently commented to the Global Data Review regarding the infirmities underlying an Orlando, Florida federal district court’s ruling that an insurer does not have to defend its insured for damage caused by a third-party data breach.

Continue Reading Hunton Insurance Head Comments On Hotel Data Breach Coverage Dispute

A District Court Judge for the District of Massachusetts recently ruled that Ace Property and Casualty Insurance Co. breached its duty to defend its insured in a lawsuit brought by Plaistow Project, LLC, after a family owned laundromat leaked chemicals onto Plaistow Project’s property. Plaistow Project, LLC v. ACE Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., No. 16-CV-11385-IT, 2018 WL 4357480, (D. Mass. Sept. 13, 2018). Plaistow Project sued State Line Laundry Services in state court, and ACE denied coverage under the pollution exclusion in State Line Laundry’s insurance policy. Plaistow Project then settled with State Line Laundry. Under the settlement terms, Plaistow Project was assigned State Line Laundry’s rights against ACE.

Continue Reading Massachusetts Judge Holds That Insurer Breached Its Duty To Defend Lawsuit After Chemical Spill

In a victory for policyholders, a New York trial court rejected insurers’ summary judgment arguments, ruling that an insurer must establish a common “fact, circumstance, situation, transaction or event” underlying an investigation before it can rely on a prior and pending litigation and investigation (“PPLI”) exclusion based on that earlier investigation. The court further ruled that the insurer cannot base its coverage denial on a common “fact, circumstance, situation, transaction or event” learned during the investigation.

Continue Reading New York Court Rejects Insurers’ Use of Prior/Pending Investigation Exclusion; Requires Factual Predicate to Exist Before the Prior Investigation and not Arise From It

In a victory for policyholders, and an honorable mention for Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the dispersal of concrete dust that damaged inventory stored in an aircraft part distributor’s warehouse was a pollutant, as defined by the policy, but that it also constituted “smoke” as that term was defined in the dictionary, thereby implicating an exception to the policy’s pollution exclusion.  The Court then granted summary judgment for the policyholder, who had suffered a $3.2 million loss.[1]

Continue Reading Another (Insurer) Bites The Dust: Virginia District Court Rejects Narrow Reading of Pollution Exclusion

The Sixth Circuit has rejected Travelers Casualty & Surety Company’s request for reconsideration of the court’s July 13, 2018 decision, confirming that the insured’s transfer of more than $800,000 to a fraudster after receipt of spoofed e-mails was a direct loss” that was “directly caused by” the use of a computer under the terms of ATC’s crime policy.  In doing so, the court likewise confirmed that intervening steps by the insured, such as following the directions contained in the bogus e-mails, did not break the causal chain so as to defeat coverage for “direct” losses.

Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Declines Reconsideration of American Tooling Center’s “Spoofing” Win

In a victory for policyholders, a recent decision from the Western District of Texas narrowly construed a common breach-of-contract exclusion and held that the insurer had a duty to defend its insured against an underlying lawsuit over construction defects. The allegations potentially supported a covered claim, as the conduct of the insured’s subcontractor could have been an independent, “but for” cause of the property damage at issue, thereby triggering the insurer’s duty to defend.

Continue Reading Texas Court Construes Breach of Contract Exclusion Narrowly in Duty-to-Defend Case

The Supreme Court of California has ruled that a general liability insurer must defend an employer against allegations of employee misconduct, reinforcing the breadth of (1) what constitutes an “occurrence” under an employer’s commercial general liability (CGL) policy and (2) the duty to defend regarding claims for negligent hiring, retention and supervision. The opinion in Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Constr. Co., Inc. can be found here.

Continue Reading California Supreme Court Rules That General Liability Insurer Must Defend Employer Against Employee Misconduct Allegations