From business interruption to biometric privacy, the first half of 2021 has already seen its fair share of significant insurance rulings. Law360 recently interviewed Hunton insurance counsel Geoffrey Fehling for an article analyzing the biggest insurance coverage cases and how they have impacted the legal landscape for policyholders and insurers.
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.
Hunton Andrews Kurth Counsel Geoffrey Fehling was quoted on June 4 in a Law360 article titled “FCPA’s High Costs May Cause Tightening In D&O Market.” The article analyzed heightened FCPA enforcement risks faced by corporate policyholders, which could lead to an even harder market for directors and officers insurance coverage for those exposures, according to Fehling and other legal experts interviewed for the article. Citing recent government-led investigations into FCPA violations, the article discussed, among other things, three key expenses large corporate policyholders must consider when being investigated for a FCPA violation: costs to investigate the alleged violation, costs for any liability for a violation supported by evidence, and costs to shareholders for potential securities or other follow-on litigation.
In 2020, Americans faced a shortage of toilet paper. This year, companies face a shortage of microchips. Microchips are a crucial component in a growing number of electronic products, everything from smartphones to cars and household appliances. As the shortage trickles down the supply chain, downstream businesses are now unable to obtain the microchips or other components they need to make their products. This forced companies to slow or, in some cases, totally shut down their production lines until the supply of microchips can be restored. These slowdowns and closures have led to substantial losses of income for affected businesses. Fortunately, insurance coverage is likely available for these types of business income losses.
On May 20, 2021, the Supreme Court of Illinois upheld the state appellate decision finding that that West Bend Mutual Insurance Company must defend its insured, a tanning salon, against a class-action lawsuit claiming violation of the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) under two business owners’ liability policies.
Hunton Andrews Kurth’s insurance coverage team recently published a client alert discussing a D&O coverage dispute arising from a contractual liability exclusion.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a D&O liability insurer could not rely on ambiguous endorsements as a basis to deny coverage for claims brought by investors against its insured company and its CEO. Reversing the Eastern District of Missouri, the appellate court in Verto Medical Solutions LLC, et al. v. Allied World Specialty Insurance Co., No.19-3511 (8th Cir.), found the policy ambiguous as to whether a contractual liability exclusion had been deleted by endorsement and thus, the insurer must provide coverage for the underlying claims. Continue Reading D&O Insurer Muted by “Uncertainty” in Contract Exclusion, and “Complicated” Endorsements, in Headphone Manufacturer’s Liability Claim
The 2021 Chambers and Partners rankings for Georgia insurance recovery practices and lawyers are out and Hunton Andrews Kurth has received top honors. The rankings include Hunton Andrews Kurth’s Insurance Recovery practice and partners Lawrence J. Bracken II and Michael S. Levine, with all receiving Band 1 honors – the organization’s top-tier ranking. “The top-level ranking of our practice in Georgia, and the work that Larry and Mike bring to our clients in Georgia, specifically, is emblematic of the work our team is doing nationwide,” said Insurance Recovery Practice Head, Walter J. Andrews. “The Firm and I could not be more proud,” he added.
The Indiana Supreme Court recently reversed a trial court’s finding and an affirming intermediate appellate court opinion regarding the interpretation of a policy providing coverage for cyber-crime. In G&G Oil Co. of Indiana, Inc. v. Continental Western Insurance Co., the state high court rejected the lower courts’ narrow interpretation of coverage and impractical view on causation. A copy of the decision can be found here.
The Northern District of New York recently awarded summary judgment to insurer Affiliated Factory Mutual Insurance Co. against Mohawk Gaming Enterprises, a casino and resort operated by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe located on the border of New York and Canada. Mohawk Gaming sued AFM seeking recovery of business income losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In granting the insurer’s motion, however, the court failed to consider all parts of the AFM policy, as required under New York law, and failed to afford meaning to specific language contained in the policy’s two communicable disease sections, each of which specifically contemplate that “communicable disease,” as defined and covered under the AFM policy, can cause loss and damage to property. Instead, the court followed other decisions from “numerous courts around the country,” each of which is based on inherently flawed reasoning (e.g., reliance on cases where no presence of virus was alleged or cases that clearly and broadly excluded loss caused by virus), to conclude that the presence of virus “is insufficient to trigger coverage when the policy’s language requires physical loss or physical damage.” In fact, a federal court in Texas recently rejected the very same reasoning employed in Mohawk Gaming after recognizing that the FM/AFM policy form “is much broader than [others] and expressly covers loss and damage caused by ‘communicable disease.’” See Cinemark Holdings, Inc. v. Factory Mut. Ins. Co., No. 4:21-cv-00011 (E.D. Tex. May 5, 2021).
Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the Southern District of New York’s award of over $2 million to policyholder, Fabrique Innovations, Inc., against its ocean cargo insurance carrier, Federal Insurance Company.
Federal issued an “all-risk” ocean cargo insurance policy to Fabrique for fabric and plush merchandise “temporarily in storage” at a warehouse owed by Hancock Fabrics. Fabrique’s goods were lost when Hancock liquidated its holdings—including Fabrique’s merchandise—as part of Hancock’s bankruptcy proceedings. Following the loss, Fabrique filed a claim under its policy with Federal. Federal denied the claim, citing various exclusions, including an exclusion for “loss, damage or expense caused by or resulting from willful misconduct, fraud or deceit,” which the insurer argued was triggered due to Hancock’s sale of the goods in violation of the parties’ third-party logistics agreement.