Benchmark Litigation has named Syed Ahmad, a partner in Hunton Andrews Kurth’s Insurance Coverage practice, to the publication’s 40 & Under Hot List. Benchmark Litigation is the definitive guide to America’s leading litigation firms and attorneys. The 40 & Under Hot List honors the most notable up-and-coming litigation attorneys in the United States. Those named to the list have proven their eligibility as individuals at the partner level of their respective firms who are 40 years of age or younger.

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The Eleventh Circuit recently found that an insured had not paid enough to satisfy its policy’s deductible and would thus be required to pay more before coverage would be available. The court’s holding turned on the meaning of a “tenants and neighbors” provision that extended coverage, but only for claims arising in countries that apply a civil law system. As explained below, this ruling underscores the value of retaining experienced coverage counsel to identify potential gaps and deficiencies in coverage.
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A federal court has ruled in Catlin Specialty Ins. Co. v. J.J. White, Inc., that settlement of an underlying third-party lawsuit involving covered and uncovered claims requires consideration of two principles of proof. First, the factfinder must assume that the insured was actually liable in the underlying case. Second, the factfinder must resolve all factual issues necessary to deciding coverage. A copy of the decision can be found here; and a copy of a related summary-judgment opinion can be found here.

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In a June 18, 2019 article published in Law360, Hunton insurance team partner Syed Ahmad analyzed some of the most important insurance cases from 2019 so far.

Mr. Ahmad first touched on a pair of rulings from the Montana Supreme Court. In each, that court refused to find coverage for consent judgments negotiated by policyholders. The court in Abbey/Land v. Glacier Construction Partners rejected an underlying consent judgment because it was unreasonable and flowed from collusion between the underlying parties. Then, in Draggin’ Y Cattle Co. v. JCCS, the court reversed a trial court’s holding that an underlying consent judgment was presumptively reasonable, holding that the judgment did not deserve a “presumption of reasonableness,” because the insurer had not breached its duty to defend.
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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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A recent First Circuit ruling underscores that a well-negotiated insurance policy can cover claims for which state law has no remedy. In Starr Surplus Lines Ins. Co. v. Mountaire Farms Inc., Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Company insured AdvancePierre Foods Inc., a maker of ready-to-eat lunches and sandwiches. In 2015, a string of salmonella outbreaks were linked to chicken in AdvancePierre’s products, prompting AdvancePierre to recall more than 1.7 million pounds of chicken. The recall cost AdvancePierre over $10 million, which Starr covered under AdvancePierre’s product-contamination policy.

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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.

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