A federal court in New Jersey recently held that the construction of an ambiguous policy term is not a matter suitable for judgment on the pleadings, thus denying AIG from avoiding coverage for a $67 million antitrust settlement. Rather, the only way to establish the meaning of an ambiguous term, the court explained, is to ascertain the intent of the parties, which requires “meaningful discovery.”
In football as in life, the best defense is often a good offense. But, that adage does not always play well in litigation. In Riddell, Inc. v. Superior Court, No. B275482, 2017 WL 3614305 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 23, 2017), the California Court of Appeal blew the whistle on such a tactic, holding that an insurer could not use discovery tools in a coverage dispute with its policyholder in order to prejudice the policyholder’s defense in an underlying lawsuit.
On August 29, 2017, my colleagues Lawrence J. Bracken, Michael Levine, and Geoffrey Fehling published an article in Law360 discussing the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision rejecting coverage for the Los Angeles Lakers’ director’s and officer’s (D&O) insurance claim arising from a fan’s class action lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), based on a broadly-worded invasion of privacy exclusion in the Lakers’ D&O insurance policy. A split Ninth Circuit panel held that “[b]ecause a TCPA claim is inherently an invasion of privacy claim, [the insurer] correctly concluded that [the claimant]’s TCPA claims fell under the Policy’s broad exclusionary clause.” The full article is available here.
Liability insurance policies generally have an exclusion barring coverage for claims brought by the insured’s own employees. Many times, especially in the hospitality industry, a liability insurance policy provides coverage for various different companies. A common question is whether claims brought by an employee of one insured against another insured are covered under such a policy.
Dick’s Sporting Goods (“DSG”) sued a Chinese insurer, PICC Property and Casualty Company Limited Suzhou Branch (“PICC”), seeking coverage under a products liability insurance policy for personal injury claims arising out of a burst exercise ball. In Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. v. PICC Prop. & Cas. Co. Ltd. Suzhou Branch, No. 2:16-cv-01635-DSC-RCM (W.D. Pa. July 28, 2017), a federal magistrate judge in Pennsylvania found that an insurance policy’s forum-selection clause required DSG to assert its claims in a Chinese court and, accordingly, recommended that DSG’s coverage claims be dismissed.
A US District Court has ruled that a Professional Services Exclusion in a D&O policy does not bar coverage for suits alleging that a network of for-profit career colleges engaged in false marketing regarding the quality of education and job prospects that enrollees would receive. The decision in Education Affiliates Inc., et al. v. Federal Insurance Company, et al., stems from a series of lawsuits filed against the owner of the career colleges by former students and a subpoena and draft complaint served by the Florida Attorney General alleging that the colleges were deceptive in marketing their services to prospective students.
A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that the absence of a duty to defend does not foreclose the potential for indemnity coverage under primary and umbrella liability policies. The decision in Hartford Casualty Insurance Co. et al. v. DP Engineering LLC, stems from a March 31, 2013, incident where an industrial crane collapsed at a nuclear generating facility near Russellville, Arkansas, causing significant damage and injuries, including one death.
The Eleventh Circuit confirmed in First Mercury Insurance Company v. Excellent Computing Distributors, Inc., No. 15-10120 (11th Cir. Apr. 20, 2016), that policyholders need not await adjudication of underlying liability litigation before obtaining a confirmation of coverage. The decision arose from a declaratory judgment action concerning the availability of insurance coverage for an underlying negligence suit against the policyholder. The district court dismissed the declaratory judgment action, finding it “inappropriate to exercise jurisdiction over an action seeking a declaration of the plaintiff’s indemnity obligations absent a determination of the insureds’ liability.” The court also noted that “significant factual questions necessary for a resolution of [the] declaratory judgment action are at issue in the state [court] action, and have yet to be resolved.” But the court did not identify the factual questions.