A Delaware court recently granted summary judgment to a mortgage broker targeted in a federal government investigation for alleged False Claims Act violations, holding that the company’s directors and officers liability (“D&O”) insurer was required to indemnify more than $15 million in settlement costs with the U.S. Department of Justice. Guaranteed Rate, Inc. v. ACE American Insurance Company, No. N20C-04-268 MMJ CCLD (Del. Super. Ct. Sept. 6, 2021). We previously reported on the policyholder’s earlier victory in this case, in which the court held that a Civil Investigative Demand (“CID”) from federal authorities triggered the insurer’s obligation to pay defense costs under the D&O policy.
Continue Reading D&O Insurer Must Cover Mortgage Broker’s $15 Million Settlement of Alleged False Claims Act Violations

Hurricane Ian is rapidly approaching the west coast of Florida and is expected to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near the Tampa area within the coming days. While the exact track is still being determined, there is a chance the storm may also impact insureds in Georgia and South Carolina. Now is the

As reported on this blog, policyholders have long been of the view that the presence of substances like COVID-19 and its causative virus  SARS-CoV-2, which render property dangerous or unfit for normal business operations, should be sufficient to trigger coverage under commercial all-risk insurance, as has been the case for more than 60 years.

However, many courts, federal courts in particular, despite decades of pro-policyholder precedent, have embraced the view that “viruses harm people, not [property].”  Thirty-one months after the start of the pandemic, the first state high court has gone in a different direction, according greater weight to pro-policyholder precedent.

Continue Reading Vermont Supreme Court Finds COVID-19 May Damage Property

A Texas jury has found that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus on the property of Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) caused “physical loss or damage” and resulting economic loss, triggering coverage under BCM’s commercial property insurance program. The jury awarded BCM over $48 million following a three-day trial; the award consisted of $42.8 million in business interruption, $3.3 million in extra expense, and $2.3 million in damage to research projects.
Continue Reading Texas Jury Finds Presence of SARS-CoV-2 Virus Causes “Physical Loss or Damage” to Property, Awards Over $48 Million to Baylor College of Medicine

Massachusetts’ highest court ruled earlier this month that attorney’s fees awarded under the Commonwealth’s consumer protection statute are not covered damages under a general liability insurance policy. Consequently, the decision in Vermont Mutual Insurance Co. v. Poirier, Slip Op. SJC-13209 (July 6, 2022), means that companies sued for allegedly unfair or deceptive practices may be left to fund awards of attorneys’ fees under Chapter 93A, even where other aspects of their liability may be covered by insurance.
Continue Reading Massachusetts High Court Holds Chapter 93A Fee Award Not Covered Under General Liability Policy

Recently, an Illinois federal judge ruled that where government shutdown orders due to COVID-19 in different states impacted one insured, that insured suffered separate occurrences in each effected state. Dental Experts, LLC v. Massachusetts Bay Ins. Co., No. 20 C 5887, 2022 WL 2528104 (N.D. Ill. July 7, 2022).
Continue Reading COVID-19 Losses and Number of Occurrences

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently gave another reminder why cyber insurance should be part of any comprehensive insurance portfolio. In Construction Financial Administration Services, LLC v. Federal Insurance Company, No. 19-0020 (E.D. Pa. June 9, 2022), the court rejected a policyholder’s attempt to find coverage under its professional liability insurance for a social engineering incident that defrauded over $1 million.
Construction Financial Administrative Services, which goes by CFAS, disburses funds to contractors. One of its clients, SWF Constructors, was hacked, and a bad actor posing as the client asked CFAS to distribute $600,000 to a sham third party. John Follmer, an executive at CFAS and the only person authorized to approve distribution of funds, approved it. The next day, the bad actor, again posing as the client, asked Follmer to transfer an additional $700,000. Follmer approved that distribution too.

Continue Reading Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Silent-Cyber Basket

Texas is among the minority of states that permit few, if any, deviations from the “eight-corners rule,” which provides that an insurer’s duty to defend must be determined from the complaint and the policy, without regard to extrinsic evidence or facts. In Bitco Gen. Ins. Corp. v. Monroe Guar. Ins. Co., No. 19-51012, 2022 WL 1090800 (5th Cir. Apr. 12, 2022) (“Bitco”), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to consider extrinsic evidence in determining Bitco’s duty to defend and outlined when a court applying Texas law can deviate from the state’s strict eight-corners rule under the Monroe exception.
Continue Reading Texas Duty to Defend: To Deviate or Not to Deviate

NL Industries recently prevailed against its commercial general liability insurers in the New York Appellate Division in a noteworthy case regarding the meaning of “expected or intended” injury and the meaning of “damages” in a liability insurance policy. In Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London v. NL Industries, Inc., No. 2021-00241, 2022 WL 867910 (N.Y. App. Div. Mar. 24, 2022) (“NL Indus. II”), the Appellate Division held that exclusions for expected or intended injury required a finding that NL actually expected or intended the resulting harm; not merely have knowledge of an increased risk of harm. In addition, the court held that the funding of an abatement fund designed to prevent future harm amounted to “damages” in the context of a liability policy because the fund has a compensatory effect. NL Industries II is a reminder to insurers and policyholders alike that coverage is construed liberally and exclusions are construed narrowly towards maximizing coverage. 
Continue Reading New York Court Narrowly Interprets “Expected or Intended Injury” Exclusion in Win for Policyholder

Hunton commercial litigators and insurance recovery lawyers teamed up to address the intricacies of snap removal – a strategy being employed by insurers and other litigants with increasing frequency.  The technique is designed to defeat the forum-defendant rule that permits a plaintiff to bring its case in state court when suing a defendant in the defendant’s own home state.  However, some courts to confront this maneuver have rejected its use, disallowing a savvy defendant to effect an end-run on the forum-defendant rule by promptly removing a state court lawsuit before an in-state defendant is “properly joined and served.”  A recent Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article written by Christopher Cunio, Nicholas Stelakis and Veronica Adams discusses the tension that is emerging on this issue and how courts have addressed it.
Continue Reading Oh Snap! Snap Removal is Not All it’s Cracked Up to Be