In American Reliable Insurance Company v. Lancaster, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a property insurer’s summary judgment motion concerning the insurer’s denial of a fire loss claim.  The basis of the denial was that the policyholders had failed to pay the policy premium.  The policyholders, Charlie and Wanda Lancaster, claimed that they had paid their policy premiums for several years to their insurance agent, Macie Yawn.  In October 2014, American Reliable mailed a renewal notice to the Lancasters notifying them that premium payments had to be made directly to the insurer.  After it did not receive payment from the Lancasters, American Reliable sent them a cancellation notice in December 2014, again notifying them that payments be made directly to the insurer.  The Lancasters denied having received either notice from American Reliable, but the record included a receipt for certificate of mailing.

Continue Reading Georgia Court of Appeals Upholds Denial of Coverage Because Insurance Broker Lacked Agency to Accept Premium Payment

On October 6, 2020, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash Jr. issued Georgia’s first COVID-19 business interruption insurance decision, finding Governor Brian Kemp’s State of Emergency Executive Order did not cause “physical loss of” the policyholders’ closed dining rooms. Henry’s Louisiana Grill, Inc. et al. v. Allied Ins. Co. of Am., No. 1:20-cv-2939-TWT (N.D. Ga. Oct. 6, 2020). The decision takes an unusually narrow view of the phrase “loss of,” as it is used in the policy and, consequently, reaches a conclusion that is inconsistent with how other courts have analyzed the phrase.

Continue Reading Georgia Court Says “Au Revoir” to Henry’s Louisiana Grill’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Claim

Deciding that certain damages claimed by the underlying case plaintiff were covered “Loss” under a professional services policy, the Eleventh Circuit determined that AEGIS must pay to defend a Georgia landlord in a class action for wrongful failure to return tenants’ security deposits under O.C.G.A. § 44-7-35(c).  The policy defined “Loss” as “a compensatory monetary amount for which the Insured may be held legally liable, including judgments . . . awards, or settlements,” but specifically excluded:

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Determines AEGIS Must Defend Landlord in Security Deposit Class Action

Last week, a Georgia federal jury popped a motor carrier liability insurer and its insured with a $21 million verdict in a wrongful death suit. According to the Complaint, the insured driver lost control of his tractor-trailer while driving on Georgia Highway 369. As a result, the trailer disconnected and overturned, injuring a pedestrian walking along the highway’s shoulder. The pedestrian eventually succumbed to his injuries, and his estate filed suit against the driver and the driver’s insurer under Georgia’s Direct Action Statute, which allows plaintiffs to name motor carrier insurers as defendants along with their insureds.

Continue Reading Georgia Jury Awards $21M against Trucking Insurer and its Insured in Pedestrian Death

In Dunn, et al. v. Columbia National Insurance Company, No. 2:17-cv-0246 (N.D. Ga.), an insurance company refused to defend an insured in a personal injury claim contending that the insured failed to cooperate in the defense. The underlying claim stemmed from an automobile accident, where an employee of Lawson Air Conditioning and Plumbing, Inc. (“Lawson”), Ronald Patterson, struck members of the Dunn family with a pickup truck owned by Lawson as the family was walking out of a Walmart store. The Dunn family members suffered bodily injury as a proximate result of the accident.  Patterson admitted fault.

Continue Reading Insurer Cannot Invoke Duty to Cooperate as Affirmative Defense After Denying Coverage

Energy industry: is your insurance sufficient to handle a major cyber event? Larry Bracken, Mike Levine, and I address this question and more in our recent article for Electric Light & Power, found here.  In the article, we identify three major gaps in cyber insurance that we routinely see when analyzing coverage for energy industry clients. The first major gap is coverage for bodily injury or property damage caused by a cyber event. Most cyber insurance policies exclude coverage for both bodily injury and property damage, even if caused by a cyber event. Meanwhile, many commercial general liability insurance policies now exclude cyber-related risks, thus creating a gap in coverage for these losses. The second gap we identify is coverage for fines and penalties, including those issued under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Even where cyber insurance policies expressly purport to cover fines and penalties, it is unclear if these may be deemed uninsurable as a matter of public policy in certain jurisdictions. Finally, we identify a gap in coverage for business income losses when the insured’s network, or that of a vendor on which they rely, goes down. That coverage is a key component of a robust cyber program, but one that is typically only offered for an additional premium.

Continue Reading Hunton Insurance Lawyers Discuss Cyber Risks to the Energy Grid in Electric Light & Power

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently held that Zurich American Insurance Company was obligated to defend Electricity Maine, LLC in a class action lawsuit brought by its customers.  The case stems from alleged misconduct by Electricity Maine that resulted in customers receiving higher bills than were previously represented.  Plaintiffs Jennifer Chon and Katherine Veilleux sought to represent a class of approximately 200,000 customers seeking damages totaling approximately $35 million.  Specifically, the complaint asserted claims for negligence, negligent misrepresentation, violations under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18. U.S.C. §§ 1962, 1964, and the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Continue Reading First Circuit Court of Appeals Holds That Insurer Must Defend Electricity Company Against Class Action Lawsuit

A recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease has been traced to a Sheraton hotel in Atlanta, Georgia.  According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 11 cases are confirmed and 55 more cases are “probable.”  The Atlanta Sheraton closed on July 15 to investigate the outbreak.  The closure is certain to result in a substantial immediate loss of revenue for the property.  The closure and loss of advanced reservations also will likely result in an extended interruption of hotel revenue.  Add to that potential stigma-related losses that will result from those afraid to reenter the property after the hotel reopens.  Sheraton will likely turn to its insurers to seek payment for its business interruption costs.

Continue Reading Legionnaires’ Outbreak Raises Significant Insurance Issues

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.

Continue Reading Georgia Court of Appeals Holds That Insurer Must Defend Oil Company Against Entire Lawsuit