The Hawaii Supreme Court emphatically rejected insurer efforts to seek reimbursement of defense costs absent a provision in the policy providing for such reimbursement in St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company v. Bodell Construction Company, No. SCCQ-22-0000658, 2023 WL 7517083, (Haw. Nov. 14, 2023). The state high court’s well-reasoned decision rests on bedrock law regarding insurance policy construction and application, follows the nationwide trend of courts compelling insurers to satisfy their contractual obligations in full, and should carry great weight as other jurisdictions continue to debate the same issue.Continue Reading Hawaii Supreme Court Says Aloha to Insurers Trying to Recoup Defense Costs From Policyholders

When obtaining insurance coverage, businesses must be wary of policy exclusions that are so broad that they defeat the policy’s primary purpose and render coverage illusory. In Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. H.E. Sutton Forwarding Co., LLC, No. 2:21-CV-719-JES-KCD, 2023 WL 5486746 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 24, 2023), the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida considered this very issue in deciding when a policy exclusion goes too far.Continue Reading Air Horse One: Florida Sets a High Bar to Find Insurance Coverage Illusory

Courts nationwide have issued a wide range of decisions on insurance coverage for lawsuits arising out of the opioid epidemic under commercial general liability policies. On August 17, 2023, a North Carolina federal court illustrated why coverage is also available under Directors and Officers (D&O) liability insurance policies. In The North Carolina Mutual Whole Company v. Federal Insurance Company, No. 1:22-CV-553, 2023 WL 5312234 (M.D.N.C.), the court determined a drug wholesaler’s D&O policy provides coverage for more than one hundred underlying lawsuits, rejecting the insurer’s argument that two exclusions, the contract and professional services exclusions, barred coverage.Continue Reading D&O Can Be a Source of Coverage for Opioid Suits

PFAS Regulation

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (“PFAS”) are a class of substances that have increasingly become the target of federal and state regulation in everything from drinking water, groundwater, site contamination, waste, air emissions, firefighting foam, personal care products, food and food packaging, and now consumer and commercial products. PFAS are widely-used chemicals that have the unique ability to repel both oil and water, which led to their application in many products including items such as stain and water-repellent fabric, chemical-and oil-resistant coatings, food packaging materials, plastics, firefighting foam, solar panels and many others. The carbon-fluorine bond is the strongest in nature, making these compounds highly persistent in the environment.Continue Reading PFAS Regulation and Insurance Coverage Implications

One of the threshold issues in COVID-19 insurance coverage cases that have been brought across the country is whether the policyholder’s allegations meet the applicable pleading standard in alleging that the virus caused physical loss or damage. In many cases, the courts have gotten it wrong, effectively holding policyholders to a higher standard than required. But recently, a California federal judge righted those wrongs by acknowledging the correct pleading standard in that case, which is whether the allegations state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The Court, here, correctly recognized that the policyholder, the Los Angeles Lakers, met that pleading standard when it alleged that the COVID-19 virus can cause physical loss or damage by physically altering property.
Continue Reading California Court Forces Insurer to Play Ball in COVID-19 Insurance Coverage Suit

From IRS rulings that “virtual currency” is taxed as “property” to an SEC lawsuit claiming that digital assets are “securities” under federal law, meteoric growth of the largely unregulated crypto industry has raised numerous questions about whether crypto-related risks are covered by insurance. In the latest example of the intersection of crypto and insurance, a California federal court recently held that cryptocurrency stolen from a Coinbase account did not constitute a covered loss under a homeowner’s insurance policy. The fundamental issue was whether the stolen crypto met the policy’s requirement for “direct physical loss to property” and, more specifically, whether the losses were “physical” in nature. The court ruled against coverage, reasoning that lost control of cryptocurrency is not a direct physical loss as a matter of California law.
Continue Reading California Holds Stolen Cryptocurrency Does Not Qualify as “Physical” Loss Under Homeowners’ Policy

Prior posts in this series have discussed insurance coverage issues that pertain directly to wildfire claims, but we have not yet addressed how one proceeds following a loss.  In this post in the Blog’s Wildfire Insurance Coverage Series, we discuss the preparation, submission and negotiation of the insurance claim.
Continue Reading Wildfire Insurance Coverage Series, Part 7: How to Successfully Prepare, Submit and Negotiate the Claim 

Because of the potential exposure associated with wildfires, many insurers have attempted to withdraw from the property coverage market in various states. In this post in the Blog’s Wildfire Insurance Coverage Series, we discuss the challenges businesses and individuals face in obtaining wildfire insurance coverage, and the regulatory scheme that is intended to help them secure adequate coverage.
Continue Reading Wildfire Insurance Coverage Series, Part 6: Ensuring Availability of Insurance and State Regulations

Insurance policies provide different levels of insurance coverage and even if the amount purchased was adequate at one time, developments over time (e.g., inflation, upgrades, regulatory changes and surge pricing) may leave the policyholder underinsured. In this post in the Blog’s Wildfire Insurance Coverage Series, we emphasize the need for policyholders to take a close look at the policy’s terms to select the right type and amount of coverage for a potential loss.
Continue Reading Wildfire Insurance Coverage Series, Part 5: Valuation of Loss, Sublimits, and Amount of Potential Recovery

Business loss is not limited to fire or smoke damage to its own property – it often arises from damage to the supply chain. In this post in the Blog’s Wildfire Insurance Coverage Series, we look at what coverage may exist when wildfire damages an entity’s supply chain.
In many instances, while the insured property does not sustain fire or smoke damage, wildfires can wreak havoc on the business supply chain. For some, contingent business interruption coverage may be a solution. Contingent business interruption insurance extends coverage for the loss of prospective earnings because of an interruption in the insured’s supply chain that is caused by damage to property that the insured neither owns nor operates. Typically, the property covered is of a supplier or customer. For example, in 2000, Ericsson Telecom A.B., a mobile phone manufacturer, presented a substantial contingent business interruption claim based on a fire that damaged a Royal Philips Electronics semiconductor plant. Royal Philips supplied critical components for Ericsson’s mobile phones. The fire caused Royal Philips to close its plant, halting Ericsson’s phone production for six weeks, resulting in substantial losses.

Continue Reading Wildfire Insurance Coverage Series, Part 4: Coverage for Supply Chain Related Losses