The Fifth Circuit in Evanston Insurance Co. v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co. recently held that multiple collisions caused by the same insured driver over a span of 10 minutes constitute a single occurrence subject to a $1 million limit in the insured’s primary policy with Mid-Continent. The holding reversed a lower court’s ruling that Mid-Continent is liable for an additional sum the excess insurer, Evanston, paid to resolve all of the claims arising from the collisions. At issue, a fundamental question about causation and coverage under commercial liability insurance.
In a prior post, we discussed a New York trial-court decision that found an insurance policy issued in 1966, to insure the construction of the World Trade Center, continues to cover modern-day asbestos claims, with each claim constituting an individual occurrence. Last week, in American Home Assurance Co. v. The Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., 7628-7628A (1st Dep’t Nov. 15, 2018), an intermediate appellate court affirmed that decision, agreeing that coverage is triggered for claims tied to alleged asbestos exposure at the WTC site in the 1960s and ’70s.
In a win for policyholders, a California appellate court has held that the loss of use of property resulting from alleged negligence constitutes property damage under a liability insurance policy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Second Circuit has rejected Chubb subsidiary Federal Ins. Co.’s request for reconsideration of the court’s July 6, 2018 decision, confirming that the insurer must cover Medidata’s $4.8 million loss under its computer fraud insurance policy. In July, the court determined that the loss resulted directly from the fraudulent e-mails. The court again rejected the insurer’s argument that the fraudster did not directly access Medidata’s computer systems. But the court again rejected that argument, finding that access indeed occurred when the “spoofing” code in emails sent to Medidata employees ended up in Medidata’s computer system.
On Monday, a Nevada federal court held that U.S. Fire Insurance Co. (“U.S. Fire”) need not cover its insured, CP Food and Beverage, Inc. (“CP”), a strip club, under its commercial crime policy for a scheme perpetrated by its own employees that resulted in the theft of money from CP customers. A copy of the decision can be found here.
The California Court of Appeal has affirmed that Lloyd’s of London and other insurers cannot escape coverage for $132.5 million in settlements arising from the 2008 Chatsworth train crash, in which 25 individuals were killed and more than 130 injured. In Those Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London v. Connex Railroad LLC, No. B276373, 2018 WL 1871278 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. Apr. 19, 2018), the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the Los Angeles Superior Court’s ruling, discussed in our November 9, 2015 blog post, that the insurers were obligated to indemnify Connex Railroad for the settlements.