Commercial General Liability

Hunton Andrews Kurth’s 300-lawyer cross-disciplinary Retail Industry Team has released its annual 2023 Retail Industry Year in Review. The Review discusses retail industry issues that implicate multiple legal practice areas and highlights new and emerging risks retailers may encounter in the year ahead.

Significant issues from 2023, with insurance implications that will continue to evolve in 2024 and beyond, include copyright infringement claims for retailers engaged in social media and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) related liability claims and related putative class action lawsuits.

We discuss these risks in the 2023 Retail Industry Year in Review and on our insurance recovery blog, along with other risks that will continue to affect the retail industry in 2024.

Continue Reading Mitigation of Increased Risks to Retailers Through Insurance

While liability for PFAS—Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, also known as “forever chemicals”—may be an emerging issue, the availability of insurance coverage for these and similar liability claims is not. “Commercial general liability,” or CGL, insurance was specifically designed to cover claims made by a company’s customers or customers of customers for resulting bodily injury and property damage. PFAS claims fit this bill. 

Though insurance companies have attempted to deflect from this intentionally broad coverage, CGL exclusions traditionally have been narrow. Even “pollution exclusions,” which have been raised by insurers facing PFAS claims, have limited scope. PFAS are products; and, thus, when drafting pollution exclusions, the insurance industry represented to regulators that they should apply only when (1) insurers can prove the policyholder expected or intended the alleged injuries and (2) only to true “industrial” pollution.
Continue Reading PFAS Product Liabilities and Defense Costs May Be Covered by Insurance

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

Just as the Ohio and Delaware supreme courts gear up for oral argument – September 8th and 22nd, respectively – on whether insurers must defend opioid distributors in lawsuits related to the opioid crisis, Hunton Andrews Kurth Partner Syed Ahmad weighed in with the policyholders’ prospective for Law360. “These appeals are significant,” Ahmad explained (and insurers’ counsel agreed), “because of the potential far-reaching impact on the scope of general liability coverage.”
Continue Reading Ahmad Weighs In: What’s at Stake for Policyholders as Opioid Coverage Battles Enter the Appellate Ring

In this month’s Recall Roundup on the Hunton Andrews Kurth Retail Law Resource blog, Hunton insurance attorneys Syed S. Ahmad and Geoffrey B. Fehling weighed in on a recent food contamination insurance coverage dispute, Travelers Casualty Insurance Co. of America v. Mediterranean Grill & Kabob, Inc. (W.D. Tex. Nov. 4, 2020), which dealt with single versus multiple “occurrences” under an insurance policy, a common issue in recall and contamination-related claims.
Continue Reading Texas Court Treats 124 Separate Food Poisoning Cases as Single “Occurrence”


The Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sanders v. Illinois Union Insurance Co., 2019 IL 124565 (2019), announced the standard for triggering general liability coverage for malicious prosecution claims under Illinois law.  In its decision, the court construed what appears to be a policy ambiguity against the policyholder in spite of the longstanding rule of contra proferentem, limiting coverage to policies in place at the time of the wrongful prosecution, and not the policies in effect when the final element of the tort of malicious prosecution occurred (i.e. the exoneration of the plaintiff).  The net result of the court’s ruling for policyholders susceptible to such claims is that coverage for jury verdicts for malicious prosecution – awarded in today’s dollars – is limited to the coverage procured at the time of the wrongful prosecution, which may (as in this case) be decades old.  Such a scenario can have costly consequences for policyholders given that the limits procured decades ago are often inadequate due to the ever-increasing awards by juries as well as inflation.  Moreover, it may be difficult to locate the legacy policies and the insurers that issued such policies may no longer be solvent or even exist.  A copy of the decision can be found here.Continue Reading New Illinois Supreme Court Trigger Rule for CGL Personal Injury “Offenses” Could Have Costly Consequences for Policyholders

A Florida district court recently held that an insurer wrongfully refused to defend a Miami-based strip club in a lawsuit filed by 17 models claiming that the club used their images to promote its business without their authorization. The insurer was required to defend the club for allegations of defamation under the policy’s personal and advertising coverage even though 16 of the 17 plaintiffs’ claims alleged conduct outside the covered policy period and no plaintiffs brought a cause of action for “defamation.” The decision highlights the broad duty to defend, in Florida and elsewhere, that policyholders should emphasize when pursuing coverage.
Continue Reading Miami Strip Club Entitled to Coverage for Models’ Defamation Lawsuit

A Delaware court held that an appraisal action, which includes $39 million in attorneys’ fees, prejudgment interest, and costs incurred in defending litigation that arose out of Solera Holdings Inc.’s acquisition by Vista Equity Partners LP, constitutes a covered “securities claim” under Solera’s directors and officers liability insurance policy.
Continue Reading Delaware Court Says Appraisal Action Constitutes a “Securities Claim”; Triggers D&O Coverage

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 April 13, 2018, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, affirmed a trial court decision finding that a bill of sale intended to include the transfer of insurance rights and finding that such transfer did not violate an anti-assignment clause. Cooper Industries, LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Columbia Casualty Company And One Beacon America Insurance Company, Defendants-Appellants, and Employers Insurance Of Wausau, Allstate Insurance Company, Lexington Insurance Company And Westchester Fire Insurance Company, 2018 WL 1770260,(N.J. Super. A.D., 2018).  In May 1986, Cooper Industries merged several entities and transferred assets to a “new” McGraw-Edison Company through a bill of sale.  Eighteen years later, on November 30, 2004, Cooper Industries merged the new McGraw-Edison company into itself.  In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that Cooper Industries was responsible for generating and disposing of hazardous substances due to McGraw-Edison’s actions taken years earlier.  Cooper Industries sought coverage under the commercial general liability policies McGraw-Edison had in place at the time of the environmental and pollution-related occurrences.
Continue Reading New Jersey Court Finds Insurance Transfer Valid