In Zurich American Insurance Co. v. Don Buchwald & Associates, Inc., 2018 N.Y. Slip. Op. 33325(U) (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County, Dec. 21, 2017), the Supreme Court of New York held that Zurich was obligated to defend a talent and literary agency against claims brought by Hulk Hogan alleging that the agency aided and abetted one of its agents—Tony Burton—in publishing racist and sexual footage of Hulk Hogan online. The decision also gives ammunition to policyholders seeking to recover their fees incurred while litigating against an insurer’s improper denial of coverage. The court found that the insureds had “been cast in a defensive posture” due to the insurer’s claims seeking a declaratory judgment, and that this justified a fee-shifting award.
Policyholders facing any type of products liability scored a win in a recent decision from the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The court found that an insurance company must defend its insured against claims arising out of a recall while simultaneously funding the insured’s affirmative claims for recovery.
The Second Circuit has ruled a claim alleging an “offer for sale” infringed on a patent constitutes an advertising injury sufficient to trigger a defense under commercial general liability insurance. In High Point Design LLC v LM Insurance Corporation, the plaintiff High Point brought a declaratory-judgment action against Buyer’s Direct, Inc. after the latter directed High Point to cease-and-desist in the sale of its Fuzzy Babba slippers. Buyer’s Direct responded with a counterclaim alleging trade dress infringement, claiming that High Point’s offers for sale in retail catalogs infringed on Buyer’s Direct’s own slipper trade dress. Buyer’s Direct sought discovery of all advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to High Point’s fuzzy footwear to substantiate its claims.
The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently granted summary judgment in favor of developer, KB Homes, ruling that Southern Owners Insurance Co. must defend KB Homes under various Commercial General Liability policies.
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.
A Georgia Court of Appeals judge recently ruled that Scapa Dryer Fabrics was entitled to $17.4 million worth of primary coverage from National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA for claims of injurious exposure to Scapa’s asbestos-containing dryer felts. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, PA v. Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc., No. A18A1173, 2018 WL 5306693, at *1 (Ga. Ct. App. Oct. 26, 2018). Scapa sought coverage under five National Union policies issued from 1983–1987. The 1983, 1984 and 1985 National Union policies had limits of $1 million per occurrence and $1 million in the aggregate. The liability limits for the 1986 and 1987 renewal policies were amended by endorsement to $7.2 million. Scapa sought to recover the full $17.4 million from all five policies. National Union argued that a “Non-Cumulative Limits of Liability Endorsement” in the 1986 and 1987 policies limited Scapa’s recovery to only $7.2 million. Scapa sued National Union and its sister company, New Hampshire Insurance Company (from which Scapa purchased excess liability coverage), in Georgia state court.
Hunton Insurance Coverage attorneys Syed Ahmad and Geoff Fehling contributed to the firm’s Recall Roundup, a monthly publication canvassing consumer product and retail recalls and related litigation. In the October issue, Ahmad and Fehling discuss two recent decisions with potentially broad implications. In Lake Country Foods, Inc. v. Houston Casualty Co., No. 18-CV-734 (E.D. Wis. filed May 11, 2018), nutritional supplement manufacturer Lake Country Foods, Inc., (“LCF”) filed an insurance coverage complaint seeking to enforce its rights under a product contamination policy issued by Houston Casualty Company (“HCC”) arising from a salmonella contamination incident. In the October Recall Roundup, Ahmad and Fehling discuss the potential impact that the insurer’s counterclaims seeking reimbursement of the approximately $1.2 million advance payment it made in response to the alleged salmonella contamination incident might have on the pending insurance recovery dispute.
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.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently construed the undefined term “advertising idea” in a case of first impression in the Commonwealth, holding that a footwear company’s insurers must provide a defense against an underlying claim alleging unfair use of a former Olympian’s name to promote a line of running shoes.