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.

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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.

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A Michigan federal court held recently in Great American Fidelity Ins. Co. v. Stout Risius Ross, Inc., et al., 2020 WL 601784, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 7, 2020), that an insurer must defend an investment advisor against lawsuits alleging that it fraudulently overvalued the stock of a company destined for bankruptcy.  The court determined that the insurer failed to show that an exclusion barring coverage for claims arising out of ERISA and other securities laws violations was broad enough to bar coverage for accompanying common law claims of fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

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In an important decision for policyholders, a New York state appellate court rejected AIG’s effort to avoid defending McGraw-Hill in a series of copyright suits.  In doing so, it reversed the trial court and rejected the insurer’s attempted use of the contract exclusion and fortuity doctrine as a bar to coverage under various multimedia liability insurance policies.

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In Ferguson v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co., the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, found that a public entity liability policy covered the injuries sustained by a man that had been wrongfully convicted, notwithstanding that the policy was issued years after the relevant prosecution.  The court’s ruling is in stark contrast to the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sanders v. Illinois Union Insurance Co., No. 124565, 2019 WL6199651 (Ill. Nov. 21, 2019), the subject of a prior blog, where the court found that it was the policies in place at the time of the wrongful prosecution that provided coverage for the offense.  In our earlier blog, we discussed the costly consequences the Sanders decision could impose on policyholders in Illinois.  Although reaching an opposite conclusion than Sanders, Ferguson is based on different policy language and, ultimately, does not appear to be inconsistent with the Sanders decision.  While certainly a welcomed decision from a policyholder’s perspective, Ferguson and Sanders highlight the importance that policy wording can play in defining the scope of an insurance program and how similar factual scenarios can result in drastically different coverages based on seemingly minor differences in policy wording.  A copy of the Ferguson decision can be found here.

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Few areas of New York law as complex and nuanced as the law regarding an insurer’s duties to defend and indemnify.  To help practitioners efficiently navigate this area of the law, Hunton Andrew Kurth insurance attorneys Michael S. Levine and Kevin V. Small authored a Q&A guide published by Practical Law.  The full article is

In a recent decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reiterated that the duty to defend broadly requires a liability insurer to defend an entire lawsuit against its insured, even where only some of the allegations are potentially covered.  The court further held that the insured has no obligation to apportion defense costs among multiple implicated policies.  The decision, Selective Way Insurance Company v. Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Company, et al., can be found here.

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In Dunn, et al. v. Columbia National Insurance Company, No. 2:17-cv-0246 (N.D. Ga.), an insurance company refused to defend an insured in a personal injury claim contending that the insured failed to cooperate in the defense. The underlying claim stemmed from an automobile accident, where an employee of Lawson Air Conditioning and Plumbing, Inc. (“Lawson”), Ronald Patterson, struck members of the Dunn family with a pickup truck owned by Lawson as the family was walking out of a Walmart store. The Dunn family members suffered bodily injury as a proximate result of the accident.  Patterson admitted fault.

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A federal court in Illinois ruled recently, in Cincinnati Insurance Company v. H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Company, that Cincinnati Insurance Company was required to indemnify H.D. Smith for a $3.5 million settlement it reached with the State of West Virginia.  The settlement resolved an action in which West Virginia alleged that H.D. Smith contributed to the state’s opioid addiction epidemic through its negligent distribution of opioid prescription drugs.

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