New Jersey’s highest court heard arguments Monday in the appeal of a ruling that the New Jersey Transit Corp.’s (“NJ Transit”) insurers are required to insure $400 million of water damage loss caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The matter stems from an insurance claim NJ Transit made after the super storm rocked the East Coast in 2012. NJ Transit claimed over $400 million in losses as a result of damage to its tracks, bridges, tunnels and power stations. In response, its tower of property insurers took the position that a $100 million flood sublimit applied to limit NJ Transit’s recovery under its insurance tower, not the policy’s $400 million overall limits.
Continue Reading New Jersey Supreme Court Hears Insurers’ Bid to Overturn a $400M Decision

The Fifth Circuit recently rebuffed an attempt by Chubb subsidiary Ace American Insurance Co. (“Ace”) to evade liability from its excess insurer, Zurich North America subsidiary American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co. (“AGLIC”), after Ace unreasonably rejected a settlement offer within its policy limits in violation of its Stowers duty. See Am. Guarantee & Liab. Ins. Co. v. ACE Am. Ins. Co., 19-20779, 2020 WL 7487067 (5th Cir. Dec. 21, 2020). As a result, Ace must now pay approximately $7.27 million in damages to AGLIC to cover its costs to settle the underlying lawsuit plus prejudgment interest and court costs.

Continue Reading Chubb Breaches Stowers Duty, Owes $7+ Million for Rejecting Unconditional Limits Demand

On December 9, 2020, in Elegant Massage, LLC v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No 2:20-cv-00265-RAJ-LRL (E.D.V.A. Dec. 9, 2020) , a Virginia federal court refused to dismiss a majority of the policyholder’s breach of contract claim and its request for bad faith damages, declaratory judgment and class certification, all stemming from the insurers’ denial of coverage for COVID-19 related business income losses. The policyholder, a spa, purchased an all-risk property insurance policy with coverage for, among other things, loss of business income and extra expense. The spa, a non-essential business, closed on March 16, 2020 as a result of state orders requiring all non-essential businesses to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It did not reopen until May 15. Once re-opened, however, the policyholder was required to implement operational controls and precautions to ensure the safety of the public and its employees. Following its closure, the policyholder sought coverage under its all-risk insurance policy. The insurer denied coverage for the claim, contending first that losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent closure orders did not constitute “property damage” within the meaning of the policy and, second, even if the losses were because of “property damage,” the claim implicated various exclusions to coverage. The policyholder then initiated suit against its insurers.

Continue Reading Federal Court Provides Soothing Comfort for Spa’s COVID-19 Business Income Claim

On November 25, 2020, an Illinois federal judge ruled in Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co. v. S.B.C. Flood Waste Solutions, Inc., that an Iowa based insurance company must continue to defend a waste disposal company in an underlying trademark infringement and defamation lawsuit.

Continue Reading General Liability Insurer Must Defend Trademark and Other IP Claims

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has levied $125,000 in civil penalties on Cheesecake Factory as part of a settlement to resolve the agency’s allegations that the company made materially misleading statements to investors about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business. While this is the first such case reported by the SEC, it is only one in a string of recent third-party liabilities companies have faced that implicate directors’ and officers’ liability insurance coverage.

Continue Reading Cheesecake Factory’s SEC Fines Are Latest D&O Liability to Stem from COVID-19 Pandemic

On November 19, 2020, a Delaware judge ruled in Indian Harbor Ins. Co. v. SharkNinja Operating LLC, et al., that insurer Indian Harbor must defend SharkNinja against underlying patent infringement and false advertising claims despite a patent infringement exclusion.

Continue Reading Insurer Ordered to Clean Up Robot Vacuum Cleaner’s IP-Related Suit

On November 10, 2020, a New York federal judge dismissed an insurer’s counterclaims seeking to cap its exposure under a $15 million sublimit and an order estopping the policyholder from pursuing any additional amounts.

Continue Reading Federal Judge Refuses to Limit Coverage and Moves Forward with Policyholder’s Claims Against Insurer and Broker

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

In another victory for policyholders, a Pennsylvania judge denied an insurer’s early attempt to avoid coverage for losses arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the judge did not explain his reasoning, the denial is positive news for policyholders who are litigating whether COVID-19 causes “physical damage or loss” and whether so-called “virus” exclusions limit or bar coverage for pandemic-related losses.

Continue Reading PA Judge Takes A Step in the Right Direction Refusing Dismissal of COVID-19 Claim

In a resounding victory for policyholders, a North Carolina court ruled that “all-risk” property insurance policies cover the business-interruption losses suffered by 16 restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.  North State Deli, LLC v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., No. 20-CVS-02569 (N.C. Sup. Ct., Cty. of Durham, Oct. 7, 2020).  This is the first judgment in the country to find that policyholders are, in fact, entitled to coverage for losses of business income resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Equally important, the decision illustrates that a proper analysis of the operative policy provisions requires this result.

Continue Reading First Judgment Upholding Coverage for COVID-19 Business-Interruption Losses