The Georgia Court of Appeals recently affirmed a grant of summary judgment in favor of Mountain Express Oil Company on its breach of contract claim against liability insurer, Southern Trust Insurance Company.  Empire Petroleum brought claims against Mountain Express for breach of contract, injunctive relief, and libel or slander, among others.  Mountain Express sought a defense to that lawsuit under its insurance policy with Southern Trust.  Southern Trust contended that the insurance policy did not cover Empire’s non-libel/slander claims, and therefore reimbursed Mountain Express for only a portion of its attorneys’ fees. After the Empire lawsuit settled, Mountain Express sued Southern Trust for breach of contract and bad faith for failing to pay the remaining defense costs, contending that Southern Trust had a duty to defend the entire lawsuit.

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Last week the Northern District of Illinois held in Magnetek, Inc. v. Travelers Indem. Co., 2019 WL 3037080 (N.D. Ill. July 11, 2019), that Travelers had a duty to defend Magnetek, Inc. under insurance policies issued to Magnetek’s predecessor, Fruit of the Loom (“FOTL”). A copy of the Magnetek decision can be found here.

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On July 2, 2019, the Fifth Circuit held in Frederking v. Cincinnati Ins. Co.., that Cincinnati Insurance Company was on the hook for injuries resulting from a drinking and driving collision because the collision amounted to an “accident” under its insurance policy. 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 19796, __ F.3d __, 2019 WL 2751700.


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A state-appointed panel advised last week that California should change the standard for determining whether utilities are liable for wildfires.  Under the current system, California’s Public Utilities Code § 2106 provides a private right of action by any person or entity that has suffered loss, damages, or injury caused by prohibited or unlawful acts of a public utility.  Relying on this statute, property owners have asserted wildfire-related claims directly against allegedly culpable electric utility companies.  Public utilities in California also face inverse condemnation claims arising out of wildfires.  Under inverse condemnation, where private property is taken for public use and later damaged by the state or its agency, the state or agency is strictly liable to the property owner.

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A federal court in Pennsylvania has held that Liberty Mutual must defend its insured, Hershey Creamery Company, in an intellectual property infringement lawsuit because the suit raises claims that potentially implicate coverage under the policies’ personal and advertising injury coverages. The court further found that the alleged wrongful conduct was not subject to the policies’ IP infringement exclusion.

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The Scott Fetzer Co. v. Zurich American Insurance Co. matter involved a dispute over coverage for sexual assault claims against Fetzer. Three women filed suit against Fetzer, claiming that John Fields, an independent dealer of vacuums manufactured by Fetzer, verbally and sexually assaulted them. Fetzer’s alleged liability was premised on, among other things, its negligence in supervising its independent contractor’s hiring process. Fetzer settled with each of the three women.

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Upper Deck Co. has sued its general liability insurer, Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co., in California federal court last week, alleging that Liberty Mutual failed to satisfy its defense obligations in an antitrust lawsuit brought against Upper Deck by rival trading card maker Leaf Trading Cards LLC. According to the complaint, Liberty Mutual agreed that the allegations in Leaf’s suit triggered coverage under Upper Deck’s policy and acknowledged its duty to defend and Upper Deck’s right to independent counsel. However, Liberty Mutual stopped paying the defense fees of one of the firms Upper Deck hired, and also failed to pay the fees of a different firm.

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On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit found that Lloyd’s syndicates may not subrogate against an additional insured and may not force that additional insured to arbitration. Lloyd’s Syndicate 457 v. FloaTEC, LLC, No. 17-20550 (5th Cir. Apr. 17, 2019).

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The Eleventh Circuit has reversed an insurer’s award of summary judgment after finding that uncertainty about when the alleged property damage occurred raised questions about whether the damage came within the scope of the “Your Work” exclusion. More specifically, the court found unclear whether the damage occurred before or after the contractor abandoned the job, thereby triggering an exception to the “Your Work” exclusion for damage to work that had “not yet been completed or abandoned.”  The decision illustrates how timing can be a critical factor when it comes to triggering coverage for work and completed operations.

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The Southern District of Georgia recently ruled that Evanston Insurance Company is not entitled to summary judgment on whether its policies’ pollution exclusion bars coverage for the release of nitrogen into a warehouse. The case stems from an incident at Xytex Tissue Services, LLC’s warehouse, where Xytex stored biological material at low temperatures. Xytex used an on-site “liquid nitrogen delivery system” to keep the material properly cooled. This system releases liquid nitrogen, which would vaporize into nitrogen gas and cool the biological material. On February 5, 2017, a Xytex employee, Deputy Greg Meagher, entered the warehouse to investigate activated motion detectors and burglar alarms. Deputy Meagher was overcome by nitrogen gas and died as a result. Following Deputy Meagher’s death, his heirs filed suit against Xytex and other defendants. Evanston denied coverage based on the pollution exclusion in its policy. Evanston then brought a declaratory judgment action to confirm its coverage position.

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