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

An appeals court has overturned an insurer’s successful dismissal of an insurance coverage lawsuit arising from the insurer’s refusal to defend a North Carolina assisted living operator in a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging more than $60 million in damages. The court held that that the insurer improperly denied coverage under the operator’s professional liability policy (covering “damages resulting from a claim arising out of a medical incident”) because the alleged improper billing had a causal connection to the operator’s failure to render medical professional services and, therefore, “arose out of” a covered medical incident.

Continue Reading Professional Liability Insurer Breached Policy by Refusing to Defend False Claims Act Lawsuit

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

Pennsylvania’s highest court recently rejected Erie Insurance Exchange’s argument that it had no duty to defend a claim arising out of a shooting because it did not involve an accident, and therefore, there was no “occurrence” under the policy. The court held that the duty to defend was triggered because the underlying allegations were not “patently outside the policy coverage.” This decision can have far reaching effects on other kinds of claims involving intentional conduct.

Continue Reading Pennsylvania Court Holds That Violent Acts Are Not Lethal To The 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

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.

Continue Reading Insurer Must Defend ERISA Claims Despite “Statutory” Violation Exclusion

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.

Continue Reading New York Appeals Court Finds Contract and Conduct Exclusions No Bar to Defense of Publisher’s Copyright Claims

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

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.

Continue Reading Missouri Appeals Court Says Malicious Prosecution Injury Occurs in Each Year of Incarceration; Counter to the Illinois Supreme Court’s Recent Sanders Decision