Kanye West’s touring company, Very Good Touring, Inc. (Very Good), and its insurer, Lloyd’s of London (Lloyd’s), have resolved their dispute over event cancellation coverage for West’s “Life of Pablo” Tour, which experienced canceled shows due to West’s health condition. The settlement resolved all claims and counterclaims. Continue Reading Insurer Settles $10M Coverage Dispute With Kanye West Touring Company
In a recent insurer’s failure-to-settle case, Hughes v. First Acceptance Ins. Co. of Ga., the Georgia Court of Appeals reaffirmed that there is no hard-set rule conducive to summary judgment; rather, the court ruled that a jury should determine whether the insurer’s actions had been “reasonably prudent.” Plaintiff Robert Jackson allegedly caused a five-vehicle collision that resulted in his death and the serious injuries of others, including Julie An and her minor child, Jina Hong. An and Hong, through their counsel, communicated with Jackson’s insurance company, First Acceptance, stating that they were “interested” in settling their claims within Jackson’s policy limit of $25,000. Counsel also requested that the insurer send him policy information within 30 days. An later claimed that this communication represented an offer of settlement, when, 41 days later, they sent First Acceptance a letter withdrawing their “offer” and stating their intent to file suit due to the insurer’s failure to respond. An and Hong then filed suit and were ultimately awarded $5,334,220 in damages. First Acceptance paid $25,000 towards the award, leaving Jackson’s estate exposed to over five million dollars in damages.
In a prior blog post, we discussed Kanye West’s touring company’s, Very Good Touring, Inc. (“Very Good”), lawsuit against its insurer, Lloyd’s of London (“Lloyd’s”), for withholding almost $10 million in coverage after the cancellation of shows on West’s “Life of Pablo” Tour. On Tuesday, August 29, 2017, Lloyd’s responded by counterclaiming against Very Good and West, alleging that the loss was due to their failure to abide by policy conditions.
Hollywood is not off to a great start for the month of August. Kanye West’s touring company, Very Good Touring, Inc. (“Very Good”), sued insurance company Lloyd’s of London (“Lloyd’s”) on Tuesday in California federal court for withholding almost $10 million in coverage for the shows on West’s “Life of Pablo” Tour that were canceled due to West’s health condition. In Very Good Touring, Inc. v. Cathedral Syndicate, et al., No. 2:17-cv-05693 (C.D. Cal. filed Aug. 1, 2017), the touring company characterized Lloyd’s delay in providing a coverage opinion as “emblematic of a broader modus operandi of the insurers of never-ending post-claim underwriting where the insurers hunt for some contrived excuse not to pay.”
A California appellate court has affirmed a finding that a property insurer acted in bad faith when it searched for a reason to deny coverage for a fire loss and conducted an incomplete and non-objective investigation, even though the carrier subsequently paid the claim. The decision in Saddleback Inn, LLC v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, No. G051121 (Cal. App. 4th, Mar. 30, 2017, which can be found here, illustrates the principle that an insurer’s conduct should be determined based on what the carrier knows when it refuses to pay the claim, and that subsequent developments cannot be used to salvage prior bad faith conduct.
The Ninth Circuit in Teleflex Medical Incorporated v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh PA, No. 14-56366 (9th Cir. Mar. 21, 2017) affirmed a jury verdict finding that AIG must pay $3.75 million in damages plus attorneys’ fees to cover LMA North America, Inc.’s (“LMA’s”) settlement with its competitor over allegedly disparaging advertisements that characterized a competitor’s products as unsafe.
On November 2, 2016, a federal judge in California ruled that a Real Estate Property Managed endorsement in policies issued to a real estate manager negated a standard policy exclusion, but also rendered the policies excess to other available insurance. The case involved a dispute over coverage for a bodily injury claim involving “Pigeon Breeders Disease,” allegedly contracted due to the insured’s failure to keep pigeons away from a condo complex’s rooftop HVAC units. The plaintiff sued the property owners, Jerry and Betty Lee, and the property manager, Sierra Pacific Management Co. Inc. (Sierra Pacific).
With hurricane season in full swing, policyholders should keep an eye on the Texas Supreme Court for a decision that may impact future recovery efforts. On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral argument in USAA Texas Lloyds Co. v. Gail Menchaca, Case No. 14-0721, regarding whether a jury’s award of damages for the insurer’s failure to conduct a reasonable investigation (in violation of the Texas Insurance Code) could stand despite the jury’s finding that the insurer did not breach the insurance policy.
In a July 5, 2016 opinion in Home Loan Inv. Co. v. St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co., the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit addressed claims for bad faith delay or denial of coverage under Colorado law in connection with a fire loss under a foreclosed property protection policy. After a jury verdict in favor of the Insured on its breach of contract and statutory bad faith claims, the Insurer moved for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) regarding the statutory bad faith claim. When its motion was denied, the Insurer appealed.
The Insurer argued in its JMOL and on appeal that because its coverage decision was “fairly debatable,” as a matter of law its coverage decision could not be unreasonable (as required for liability under the bad faith statute). The Insurer contended that denial of a fairly debatable claim is per se reasonable. However, the Tenth Circuit was persuaded by recent opinions from the Colorado Court of Appeals stating that “fair debatability is not a threshold inquiry that is outcome determinative as a matter of law; it is not necessarily sufficient, standing alone, to defeat a bad faith claim.” Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit upheld the district court’s denial of Insurer’s JMOL.
The Insurer also argued that the bad faith statutes applied only to claims-handling activities, and not underwriting activities. Relying on the purpose of the statutes and their broad language, the Tenth Circuit rejected the Insurer’s argument.
Finally, the Insurer contended that the district court erred in awarding damages for breach of contract plus the statutory penalty equal to two times the covered benefit. Relying on the plain language of the statute and Colorado appellate decisions, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s award of damages.
The decision in Home Loan Inv. Co. should serve as a reminder for policyholders that they may still be able to assert a claim for unreasonable denial of coverage even if an insurance company characterizes their claim as “fairly debatable.” Further, insureds may be able to challenge both the underwriting and claims-handling procedures of an insurer under state statutes. Consultation with experienced coverage counsel can help ensure that clients take advantage of all the statutory protections and remedies available.
Hunton & Williams LLP attorneys Mike Levine and Matt McLellan, along with Tim Monahan of Lockton Companies, LLC., presented to a group of risk managers and insurance professionals on Wednesday evening, February 17th, about strategies and pitfalls in the claim presentation process. The event was well-attended and the audience was lively with questions for the presenters. A copy of the PowerPoint can be downloaded here. Key points discussed with the group include: