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

A California state court denied an insurer’s motion to dismiss Goodwill Industries of Orange County’s COVID-19 business-interruption claim after an apparent reassessment of how California’s federal courts have applied (or, rather, misapplied) California precedent to COVID-19 cases. The case is Goodwill Industries of Orange County, California v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., No. 30-2020-01169032-CU-IC-CXC (Cal. Super. Ct. Jan. 28, 2021).

Continue Reading Good Result for Goodwill on Its Bid for COVID-19 Business-Interruption Claim

The California Supreme Court ruled that vertical exhaustion applied to determine how a policyholder could access its excess insurance policies. Montrose Chem. Corp. v. Superior Court, No. S244737 (Cal. Apr. 6, 2020). The case involved coverage for Montrose Chemical Corporation’s environmental liabilities at its Torrance facility under insurance policies issued from 1961 to 1985. Montrose and its insurers agreed that Montrose’s primary policies were exhausted but disputed the sequence in which Montrose could access the excess insurance policies.

Continue Reading California Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Vertical Exhaustion

California’s highest court held yesterday in Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Co., that the state’s insurance notice-prejudice rule is a “fundamental public policy” for the purpose of choice of law analyses. This unanimous ruling, issued in response to certified questions from the Ninth Circuit, confirms and emphasizes California’s common law rule that policyholders

In a significant win for policyholders, the Ninth Circuit rejected an insurer’s argument that the common meaning of “war” applied when interpreting a war exclusion, instead of the customary usage of the term, pursuant to Cal.  Civ. Code 1644, and revived NBC Universal’s attempt to recover at least $6.9 million in costs incurred to relocate the production of a television show from Jerusalem during the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Universal Cable Prods., et al., LLC v. Atl. Specialty Ins. Co., 2019 WL 3049034, at *10 (9th Cir. July 12, 2019).

Continue Reading It’s Not Rocket Science: Ninth Circuit Rejects Insurer’s Attempt to Invoke War Exclusion for Hamas Rocket Attack

The California Department of Insurance recently approved three new insurance carriers to provide coverage for the emerging cannabis industry. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced last week that The North River Insurance Company, United States Fire Insurance Company, and White Pine Insurance Company will all begin offering surety bonds for cannabis businesses by the end of the month.

Continue Reading California Insurance Regulators Approve Three New Cannabis Insurers

The Supreme Court of California has ruled that a general liability insurer must defend an employer against allegations of employee misconduct, reinforcing the breadth of (1) what constitutes an “occurrence” under an employer’s commercial general liability (CGL) policy and (2) the duty to defend regarding claims for negligent hiring, retention and supervision. The opinion in Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Constr. Co., Inc. can be found here.

Continue Reading California Supreme Court Rules That General Liability Insurer Must Defend Employer Against Employee Misconduct Allegations

On January 9, 2018, the Northern District of California held that the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California owed defense coverage to a pair of Scientology-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers for two lawsuits filed in Georgia and Oklahoma alleging that staff members had provided drugs and alcohol to patients, which resulted in injury and death. In Western World Ins. Co. v. Nonprofits Ins. Alliance of California, No. 14-cv-04466-EJD (N.D. Cal. Jan. 9, 2018), the court confirmed the broad scope of an insurer’s duty to defend under California law and rejected the insurer’s attempt to unreasonably expand the application of a “professional services” exclusion to avoid coverage.

Continue Reading California Court Holds that Drug- and Alcohol-related Injuries Are Not Barred by Professional Services Exclusion