On June 17, 2019, the First Circuit held that an insurer’s duty to defend was triggered because the underlying complaint set forth claims that required a showing of intent as well as claims that sought recovery for conduct that “fits comfortably within the definition of an ‘accident.’” In Zurich American Ins. Co v. Electricity Maine, LLC, Zurich sought declaratory judgment that, under a D&O policy, it had no duty to defend the insured, Electricity Maine, an electrical utility company being sued in the underlying class action. Zurich argued it had no duty to defend because the underlying complaint failed to allege that Electricity Maine engaged in conduct that qualified as an “occurrence” or that caused “bodily injury” under the terms of the policy. The First Circuit disagreed.

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There was nothing ambiguous in former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s ruling in AIG Property Cas. Co. v. Cosby, No. 17-1505 (1st Cir. June 7, 2018), where, sitting by designation, Justice Souter ruled that AIG Property and Casualty Co. (“AIG”) must defend Bill Cosby in suits brought by eight women alleging that Cosby defamed them after they accused him of sexual misconduct.  Cosby held two insurance policies issued by AIG:  a homeowner’s policy and a personal excess liability policy (the “umbrella policy””).  Under each policy, AIG has a duty to “pay damages [Cosby] is legally obligated to pay [due to] personal injury or property damage caused by an occurrence covered[] by this policy anywhere in the world . . . .”  Both policies define “personal injury” to include “[d]efamation” and require AIG to pay the cost of defending against suits seeking covered damages.  Both policies also contain so-called “sexual misconduct” exclusions.  The homeowner’s policy’s exclusion bars coverage for liability or defense costs “arising out of any actual, alleged[,] or threatened . . . [s]exual molestation, misconduct or harassment[,] . . . or . . . [s]exual, physical or mental abuse.”  The umbrella policy contained similar wording.  However, that policy also contained another “sexual misconduct” exclusion under the “Limited Charitable Board Directors and Trustees Liability” coverage part.  That exclusion applied more broadly to claims for damages “[a]rising out of, or in any way involving, directly or indirectly, any alleged sexual misconduct” (emphasis added).

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A Colorado district court held last week that a general liability insurer must defend a product disparagement claim despite a broadly-worded intellectual property exclusion in the policy. The court reached its ruling even though the alleged disparagement involved representations about patent infringement. In so holding, the court rejected the insurer’s attempt to deny coverage where the “crux of the dispute” fell within the policy’s personal injury coverage part and the insurer had failed to show that the underlying allegations “unequivocally” fell within the ambiguously worded exclusion.

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