The Eleventh Circuit has reversed an insurer’s award of summary judgment after finding that uncertainty about when the alleged property damage occurred raised questions about whether the damage came within the scope of the “Your Work” exclusion. More specifically, the court found unclear whether the damage occurred before or after the contractor abandoned the job, thereby triggering an exception to the “Your Work” exclusion for damage to work that had “not yet been completed or abandoned.” The decision illustrates how timing can be a critical factor when it comes to triggering coverage for work and completed operations.
The Southern District of Georgia recently ruled that Evanston Insurance Company is not entitled to summary judgment on whether its policies’ pollution exclusion bars coverage for the release of nitrogen into a warehouse. The case stems from an incident at Xytex Tissue Services, LLC’s warehouse, where Xytex stored biological material at low temperatures. Xytex used an on-site “liquid nitrogen delivery system” to keep the material properly cooled. This system releases liquid nitrogen, which would vaporize into nitrogen gas and cool the biological material. On February 5, 2017, a Xytex employee, Deputy Greg Meagher, entered the warehouse to investigate activated motion detectors and burglar alarms. Deputy Meagher was overcome by nitrogen gas and died as a result. Following Deputy Meagher’s death, his heirs filed suit against Xytex and other defendants. Evanston denied coverage based on the pollution exclusion in its policy. Evanston then brought a declaratory judgment action to confirm its coverage position.
A recent First Circuit ruling underscores that a well-negotiated insurance policy can cover claims for which state law has no remedy. In Starr Surplus Lines Ins. Co. v. Mountaire Farms Inc., Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Company insured AdvancePierre Foods Inc., a maker of ready-to-eat lunches and sandwiches. In 2015, a string of salmonella outbreaks were linked to chicken in AdvancePierre’s products, prompting AdvancePierre to recall more than 1.7 million pounds of chicken. The recall cost AdvancePierre over $10 million, which Starr covered under AdvancePierre’s product-contamination policy.
Hunton Andrews Kurth has selected Latosha Ellis, an associate in the firm’s Insurance Coverage practice, for the 2019 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) Pathfinder Program. Pathfinder is a national yearlong program that trains diverse, high performing, early-career attorneys in critical career development strategies, including foundational leadership and building professional networks.
On March 22, 2019, a federal judge in Michigan found in Alticor Global Holdings, Inc. v. America Int’l Specialty Lines Ins. Co., that claims of copyright infringement by several major record labels are potentially covered under liability policies issued by AIG. Alticor involved a claim for coverage stemming from suits by a group of entertainment companies against Amway, “accusing it of infringing hundreds of copyrighted sound recordings.” Amway sought coverage from its umbrella insurer, AIG. AIG claimed that the personal injury and advertising injury coverage did not apply because “coverage extends only to advertisements of a Named Insured,” i.e., Amway, and the underlying suit related to advertisements of Amway independent business owners.
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP partner Lorie Masters, partnering with insurance broker Marsh and others, analyzed the often complex issues raised by the insurance coverage actions posed by actions alleging violations of antitrust laws. “Optimizing Antitrust Coverage in Private Company D&O Policies,” published by Marsh in Insights. Investigations invoking antitrust laws raise the prospect of both civil and criminal liabilities. While most of these investigations are settled or resolved without findings of liability, the defense costs can be staggering. Policyholders should consider whether directors and officers or other insurance applies to cover the costs coming out of such investigations. To maximize coverage, policyholders should work with their advisors to ensure that policies are worded so as to enhance the prospects for obtaining insurance protection for claims alleging “antitrust violations.”
In a March 6, 2019 article appearing in Law360, Hunton insurance team partner, Syed Ahmad, commented on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent reinforcement of a general liability insurer’s broad duty to defend in West Bend Mut. Ins. Co. v. Ixthus Med. Supply, Inc. In the article, Ahmad noted that “the ruling puts some real teeth into the broad duty to defend standard.” A deeper analysis of the decision is discussed in our March 8, 2019 blog post, in which we analyze the court’s reasoning behind its refusal to allow the insurer to escape its duty to defend by relying on the knowing violation and criminal acts
In a March 13, 2019 article appearing in Law360, Hunton Insurance team head, Walter Andrews, explains the adverse impact of a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that attempts to clarify the rules governing settlement of insured liability claims under Georgia law. As Walter explains, however, the decision stands to hinder settlements and potentially subject innocent insureds to staggering liability beyond that covered by their insurance. In First Acceptance Ins. Co. of Georgia, Inc. v. Hughes, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that policyholders must make a “valid offer” – that is, one that contains definite time limits and other terms – before an insurance company is required to settle. As Walter told Law360, the court took “an overly narrow approach” that is “disturbing and is likely to act as a deterrent to settlements in the future.” He goes on to explain that insurance companies will actually have less incentive to settle, “which means that fewer cases will settle and cases will linger longer in court, which is not in the interests of either the injured parties or the insured defendants.”
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled this week that First Acceptance Insurance Co. need not pay a $5.3 million excess judgment against its insured, Ronald Jackson. First Acceptance Ins. Co. of Georgia, Inc. v. Hughes, No. S18G0517, 2019 WL 1103831 (Ga. Mar. 11, 2019), even though Jackson’s insurer could have settled the claim for Jackson’s $50,000 policy limits.
Insurance partner Michael Levine is teaming up with Hunton’s Michael Perry and Adam Solomon and Jones Day’s Lisa Ropple to discuss cybersecurity litigation and insurance coverage presentation for the Massachusetts Bar Association. The presentation, sponsored by the MBA’s Complex Commercial Litigation Section, will take place on Wednesday, March 20th at 4:30 pm at the MBA’s office in Boston. Topics will include:
- General litigation claims arising from cybersecurity incidents and defenses available to companies facing these claims.
- Safeguards to prevent cyberattacks from outside sources.
- Insurance coverage issues arising out of cybersecurity incidents.