The Central District of California recently rejected an attempt by Federal Insurance Company, a Chubb company, to avoid its duty to defend its insureds in an $8.5 million lawsuit with a former employee.

TriPacific Capital Advisors, LLC acquired Directors and Officers (D&O) coverage from Federal and Employment Practices Liability (EPL) coverage from Travelers Insurance Company. While those policies were in effect, a former TriPacific employee sued the company and its president, Geoffrey Fearns, for a variety of employment-related causes of action concerning his termination and compensation. TriPacific and Fearns tendered notice to both insurers, seeking indemnification and defense costs. Both policies contained a duty to defend.  While Travelers agreed to defend under a reservation of rights, Federal denied coverage based on multiple grounds, including its policy’s “other insurance” provision, contending that the provision rendered its policy “excess” to the Travelers policy.  Federal also argued that TriPacific had not satisfied the D&O policy’s $150,000 self-insured retention and, thus, coverage had not been implicated, in any event. TriPacific maintained that neither the SIR nor the “other insurance” provision pertained to Federal’s duty to defend and brought suit to enforce the duty to defend.
Continue Reading Potential Coverage Garners Total Defense: “Other Insurance” Provision Does Not Relieve Insurer’s Duty to Defend

Last month, the US District Court for the District of Connecticut granted an insurer’s motion for summary judgment in the case of Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA, No. 3:19cv839 (JBA), finding that there was no coverage under a directors & officers policy for defense costs associated with responding to a government subpoena. Last week, in line with our commentary, which highlighted several critical flaws in the court’s initial ruling, the court reversed itself and granted reconsideration, finding that there actually is coverage.
Continue Reading Court Corrects its Own Error in Win for D&O Policyholders

It has taken a pandemic, but the fallacy of Couch’s “physical alteration” standard, accepted blindly by myriad courts nationwide in COVID-19 insurance disputes and beyond, has been revealed in an article co-authored by Hunton insurance partner, Lorie Masters, with substantial assistance from Hunton insurance associate, Rachel Hudgins. The article, which received final publication in the American Bar Association’s TIPS Law Journal on October 26, 2021, makes a critical analysis of the landscape of judicial authority that existed when 10 Couch on Ins. § 148:46 (3d ed. 1998), the edition of Couch in which the standard first appeared, was published in the late 1990s. The article then traces the evolution of that landscape through the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when courts nationwide (predominantly federal courts), seized upon Couch’s standard as though it were a constitutional mandate. But as the article reveals, the standard is flawed, and thus the decisions that rely on it, infirm.
Continue Reading Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP Insurance Partner Lorelie Masters Co-authors Article Revealing “Widely Held” “Physical Alteration” Fallacy

It happens every year. A clearly covered loss occurs and for one reason or another, the policyholder delays in notifying its insurer of the loss. Usually, the cause for the delay is innocent. It may even appear to be justified, such as where the insured prioritizes steps to save its property, inventory or assist dependent customers. But no matter the reason, insurers can be hard-lined in their refusal to accept an untimely claim. This is especially true in states that presume prejudice to the insurer, or where the insurer need not show prejudice at all.
Continue Reading Two Years, Too Late: Time-Barred Hurricane Loss is Timely Reminder to Insureds

This year, like last, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts an extremely active hurricane season. As we write this post, the Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic, New York, and New England regions are still recovering from the devastation Ida has left in her path. Now is the time to ensure your insurance program is hurricane-ready. As reported in the client alert linked below, our insurance coverage team provides critical steps that you should take now to ensure that you protect your assets and maximize recovery in the unfortunate event of a hurricane claim.
Continue Reading Before and After the Storm: Know Your Insurance Rights, Coverages and Obligations

A federal court in New York denied an insurer’s attempt to dismiss a coverage dispute, rejecting the insurer’s contention that the individual insured directors were “necessary” parties. The insurer argued that, because the outcome of the coverage suit could jeopardize the directors’ indemnity and thereby implicate the D&O policy’s Side A coverage for non-indemnified losses, the directors had an indispensable interest in the litigation. The court disagreed.

The coverage dispute in LRN Corp. v. Markel Insurance Co., 1:20-cv-08431 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 23, 2021), arose from an underlying lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court brought by an LRN shareholder against the company and three of its directors. The plaintiff in the underlying lawsuit alleged that a self-tender offer by LRN to acquire shares of LRN’s common stock was coercive and part of a scheme that was in part orchestrated by the LRN’s directors. LRN, though dismissed from the underlying lawsuit, continued to pay legal fees for the named directors.
Continue Reading Insured Directors Not “Necessary” for Complete Adjudication of Insurer’s Coverage Obligations

The Superior Court of Delaware held that a directors and officers liability insurer must advance defense costs to a mortgage broker targeted in a federal government investigation of alleged False Claims Act violations. In Guaranteed Rate, Inc. v. ACE American Insurance Company, No. N20C-04-268 MMJ CCLD (Del. Sup. Ct. Aug. 18, 2021), Guaranteed Rate received a Civil Investigative Demand from federal authorities in June 2019 regarding the company’s underwriting and issuance of federally-insured mortgage loans. Eleven days later, Guaranteed Rate provided notice of the CID under a private company management liability policy issued by ACE American Insurance Company.
Continue Reading D&O Insurer Must Fund $18 Million Defense of Mortgage Broker in Fed’s Investigation of False Claims Act Violations

The Seventh Circuit has reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit against Federal Insurance Company and a health insurance technology company for unauthorized robocalls soliciting the sale of health insurance. The court emphasized that the complaint, which alleged the two companies were vicariously liable for the calls, pled sufficient detail to move forward.
Continue Reading Robocalling Suit Against Insurer Survives and Illustrates Proper Application of Federal Pleading Standards

On Tuesday, a New Hampshire trial court awarded summary judgment to the owner of scores of hotels after finding that the hotels sustained covered “physical loss of or damage to” insured property caused by the pandemic presence of COVID-19 and its viral agent, SARS-CoV-2. The merits ruling is yet another recent victory for policyholders who continue to make headway against an early wave of insurance company dismissals, most of which, unlike the ruling on Tuesday, never considered evidence in support of their decisions.
Continue Reading New Hampshire Court Finds Hoteliers Sustained Covered COVID-19 BI Loss