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

Texas is among the minority of states that permit few, if any, deviations from the “eight-corners rule,” which provides that an insurer’s duty to defend must be determined from the complaint and the policy, without regard to extrinsic evidence or facts. In Bitco Gen. Ins. Corp. v. Monroe Guar. Ins. Co., No. 19-51012, 2022 WL 1090800 (5th Cir. Apr. 12, 2022) (“Bitco”), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to consider extrinsic evidence in determining Bitco’s duty to defend and outlined when a court applying Texas law can deviate from the state’s strict eight-corners rule under the Monroe exception.
Continue Reading Texas Duty to Defend: To Deviate or Not to Deviate

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

Law360 recently published a roundup of the biggest general liability rulings in the first quarter of 2022. As part of that roundup, it discussed Omega Protein, Inc. v. Evanston Insurance Company, which the Mississippi Supreme Court decided in January 2021. And it quoted Hunton Partner and practice group leader Syed Ahmad’s analysis of the opinion.
Continue Reading If Courts Have Said it Once They Have Said it a Million Times: Exclusions Susceptible to Multiple Reasonable Interpretations Are Ambiguous

In an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, a private equity firm has asked the court to reverse an order finding there was no coverage for a suit alleging it concealed that a facility it sold was run by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. AKN Holdings had purchased a manufacturing facility in Reynosa, Mexico, from Thermo Fisher, unaware that the facility “was overrun” by the drug cartel of “El Chapo.” After discovering the concealment, AKN Holdings sued Thermo Fisher and, while that suit was pending, in turn sold the facility to FINSA, also without disclosing the cartel activities or its pending lawsuit.
Continue Reading Prison Break: Insurer Seeks to Escape Coverage for Suit Tied to “El Chapo”

A New Mexico court recently granted judgment on the pleadings against an insurer and found coverage, reminding the insurer that different words in a policy, indeed, have different meanings.

In Power of Grace, LLC v. Weatherby, Power of Grace, a policyholder, sued its insurer, Hudson Insurance Companies, and its insurance agent, Weatherby-Eisenrich Inc.  Power of Grace alleged that Weatherby and Hudson were liable for damages it might incur in an underlying wrongful death lawsuit arising from a tractor-trailer accident. 
Continue Reading Tomato-Tomato? – New Mexico Court Offers Insurer a $5 Million Reminder that Different Words Have Different Meanings

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

The Superior Court of Delaware held that a directors and officers liability insurer must advance defense costs to a mortgage broker targeted in a federal government investigation of alleged False Claims Act violations. In Guaranteed Rate, Inc. v. ACE American Insurance Company, No. N20C-04-268 MMJ CCLD (Del. Sup. Ct. Aug. 18, 2021), Guaranteed Rate received a Civil Investigative Demand from federal authorities in June 2019 regarding the company’s underwriting and issuance of federally-insured mortgage loans. Eleven days later, Guaranteed Rate provided notice of the CID under a private company management liability policy issued by ACE American Insurance Company.
Continue Reading D&O Insurer Must Fund $18 Million Defense of Mortgage Broker in Fed’s Investigation of False Claims Act Violations

A California federal district court recently denied an insurer’s motion to dismiss a manufacturer’s insurance coverage suit on the grounds that an “unfair competition” exclusion barred coverage for a suit that alleged violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. The court allowed the suit to proceed because the exclusion did not clearly, explicitly, and unambiguously apply to the product liability suit alleged against the manufacturer.
Continue Reading Insurer’s “Unfair Competition” Exclusion Defense to Product Liability Suit Overcooked, For Now, As Pressure Cooker Manufacturer’s Insurance Claim Proceeds