Policyholders purchase insurance policies as a safety net, promising financial protection in times of need. However, that safety net can disappear when an insurer rescinds a policy—a devastating consequence for potentially innocent policyholders. We recently published a post following a Fourth Circuit decision addressing this issue. The Ninth Circuit has also addressed this issue, most recently in the decision discussed below.Continue Reading Policy Rescission: Avoid Relying Solely on the Broker

Last week, a California federal judge held that a D&O liability insurer must advance subpoena-related defense costs on behalf of two former biotech directors and officers after the insurer could not provide conclusive evidence that the subpoenas alleged actual wrongdoing by the individuals after the company’s merger, as required to trigger the policy’s “Change in Control” exclusion. See AmTrust Int’l Underwriters DAC, Plaintiff, v. 180 Life Sciences Corp., et al., N.D. Cal. No. 22-CV-03844-BLF, 2024 WL 557724 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 12, 2024). The decision highlights the interplay of two significant D&O coverage issues—government investigations and M&A transactions—and underscores why policyholders must pay close attention to how their liability insurance policies may be impacted by a merger, acquisition, asset sale or similar deal.Continue Reading Government Investigations and M&A Transactions: Recent California Case Highlights Potential D&O Coverage Gaps

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

Extreme weather events—such as heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes—may create major protection gaps for insureds. In California, rising temperatures and massive heat waves have led the California Department of Insurance (the “Department”) to rethink risk solutions and insurance programs that protect the state’s communities from the risks associated with extreme heat. While the Department’s proposed solution applies only to coverage for local governments, Tribes, and public health agencies, it is a “hot” topic among many Californians, as insurance professionals and policyholders debate the Department’s proposed approval of parametric insurance.Continue Reading The Heated Debate Over the California Department of Insurance’s Heat Community Policy and Parametric Underwriting

An insurer for University of Southern California recently filed suit in California federal court against the university and a former gynecologist at USC’s Student Health Center seeking to rescind USC’s insurance policy.  The dispute concerns North American Capacity Insurance Company’s coverage obligations for hundreds of sexual abuse-based lawsuits brought against USC.  NACIC seeks, among other things, to rescind a policy it sold to USC based on alleged failures by USC to disclose material facts during the policy application process.  NACIC is also seeking to avoid its coverage obligations under the policy’s “Prior Known Acts” exclusion.Continue Reading Coverage Lawsuit Against USC Highlights How Prior Events Can Impact Coverage

In Yahoo, Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, PA., the California Supreme Court confirmed that contra proferentem and other rules of policy interpretation apply even to language insurers argue is “manuscript” as long as the provisions in question use standard-form policy terms. There, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit asked the California Supreme Court to answer a certified question regarding whether a commercial general liability policy (CGL) covers defense costs related to claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) (47 U.S.C. § 227). Following a thorough and thoughtful assessment of California law involving fundamental rules of policy interpretation, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the policyholder, Yahoo, Inc. (“Yahoo!”). The authors of this article represented amicus curiae, United Policyholders, in support of Yahoo! before the California Supreme Court. Continue Reading Unanimous California Supreme Court Affirms Breadth of Policy-Interpretation Rules in Confirming That CGL Policies Cover TCPA Liabilities

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

One of the most valuable aspects of liability insurance is defense coverage, which protects policyholders from significant costs to defend against and litigate claims that may never result in a judgment or settlement. Companies and their directors and officers can incur thousands or even millions of dollars in defending against claims that are resolved long before trial. Even after purchasing robust defense coverage and getting an insurer to defend a claim, however, companies may be surprised when months or even years later the insurer reverses its position and not only withdraws from the defense but also demands repayment of all defense costs paid to date. A recent case, Evanston Insurance Co. v. Winstar Properties, Inc. No. 218CV07740RGKKES, 2022 WL 1309843 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 14, 2022), shows the perils of insurer “recoupment” and underscores the importance of assessing insurer recoupment rights, if any, throughout the claims process.
Continue Reading It’s Payback Time: California Ruling Highlights Recoupment Risks in Liability Claims

Recently, the Ninth Circuit dealt with a case involving a scenario that is becoming all too common. In Ernst & Haas Mgmt. Co., Inc. v. Hiscox, Inc., 23 F.4th 1195 (9th Cir. 2022), a property management company’s accounts payable clerk received several e-mails from her supervisor instructing her to pay some invoices. Unbeknownst to the clerk, these e-mails did not originate with her supervisor, but were actually part of a fraudulent scheme to elicit fraudulent bank transfers. The clerk paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in “invoices” before becoming suspicious but, by then, it was too late and the damage was done.
Continue Reading A Win for Policyholders Who Are Victims of Fraudulent Bank Transfer Schemes

Court dockets, both in the state and federal court systems, have seen a massive influx of COVID-19 business interruption insurance cases since the pandemic began in March of 2020.  More recently, cases have been moving more expeditiously through the federal courts, and the circuit courts are starting to issue decisions. Most recently, the Ninth Circuit has spoken and its decisions provide important guidance for policyholders with pending COVID-19 coverage cases in California federal courts.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Decisions Reject Coverage for COVID Orders, Leaving Door Open for Cases Presenting Damage Claims