Courts scrutinize a complaint’s factual allegations to decide whether the allegations trigger a duty to defend.  If the facts unambiguously exclude coverage, there is no duty to defend.  But what if the factual allegations fall within a policy exclusion, but the allegations are untrue or questionable? What if the true facts would mean the exclusion doesn’t apply? In that case, many courts have found that the insurer should base its decision on the policyholder’s version of the “true facts.”  An insurer can’t rely on the complaint’s allegations to deny coverage when the facts that the insurer knows or can ascertain show that the claim is covered. Continue Reading Allegations Versus “True Facts”: Which Govern the Duty to Defend? Bonus! A Georgia Court Clears Up What the Meaning of “Is” Is
A New York federal court recently held that an insurance company was entitled to recoup legal fees paid under a directors and officers liability policy in defense of a criminal action against an ex-CEO who was convicted of bribery. On a motion for reconsideration, the court affirmed its earlier ruling that the CEO’s conduct fell within the policy’s “Dishonest and Willful Acts Exclusion,” reasoning that the criminal case had been finally adjudicated despite a pending appeal. Because there was no coverage, the insurer could seek repayment of all defense costs it had paid to date. Not only is the court’s recoupment decision potentially inconsistent with New York law, but it also raises thorny questions regarding just when a judgment is “final” for the purpose of triggering D&O policy exclusions.Continue Reading New York Court Holds Insurer Can Recoup Defense Costs, Appealable Conviction of Former Bank CEO Is “Final” Adjudication of D&O Claim
Last week, a New York federal court ruled that an insurer’s “exceedingly broad duty to defend the insured” extended to the policyholder’s indemnification of its landlords in an underlying tort claim. ConMed Corporation (“ConMed”), a medical technology company, filed suit against Federal Insurance Company (“Federal”), a division of Chubb, alleging that Federal breached the terms of its insurance contract when it refused to defend ConMed’s landlords in a Georgia lawsuit.
The coverage dispute stemmed from ConMed employees’ claims that they were exposed to unsafe levels of ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize ConMed’s equipment. Initially, the employees sued ConMed and its contractor that conducted the sterilization, but in April of 2021 the employees initiated a separate suit against ConMed’s landlords (“Landlord Action”). In the Landlord Action, plaintiff employees alleged negligence, aiding and abetting tortious conduct, fraud, wrongful death, and vicarious liability/respondeat superior claims, all stemming from their exposure to ethylene oxide. Pursuant to the lease agreement with ConMed, the landlords tendered the defense and indemnity of the Landlord Action to ConMed, which subsequently tendered the defense to Federal. Federal failed to accept defense of the Landlord Action, and ConMed filed suit.Continue Reading NY Federal Court Rules Insurer Must Cover Policyholder’s Landlords Under Lease Agreement’s Indemnity Provision
Policyholders must be mindful of expansive causation language in policy exclusions that could pose significant—and sometimes unforeseen—hurdles to obtaining coverage for D&O claims. In TriPacific Capital Advisors, LLC v. Federal Insurance Co., a California federal court recently ruled that a D&O insurer had no duty to defend an investment firm’s $8.5 million employment suit because coverage was barred by the policy’s broad contract exclusion, which applied not only to breach of contract claims but also any claims “arising from” contractual liability owed by the company.
Continue Reading Broad Contract Exclusion Dooms Investment Firm’s $8.5 Million D&O Claim
2022 has kicked off with several new whistleblower awards, as the SEC announced earlier this week that it had awarded more than $4 million to whistleblowers who provided information and assistance in two government actions—one for misconduct occurring overseas and a second where the whistleblower’s assistance directly led to the success of the covered action. …
Continue Reading Following Record-Setting Year, SEC Opens 2022 With $4 Million in New Whistleblower Awards: Is Your D&O Policy Prepared to Respond?
Hunton Andrews Kurth’s insurance coverage team recently published a client alert discussing a D&O coverage dispute arising from a credit union’s post-acquisition fraud claims.
Everest National Insurance Company has filed a lawsuit denying any obligation to cover a post-acquisition lawsuit by a credit union alleging fraud against two banks and their executives. The seller paid additional premium for an extended reporting period to report claims based on pre-acquisition wrongful conduct, but the insurer denied coverage on the ground that any claims asserted by the buyer are excluded under the D&O policy’s “insured vs. insured” exclusion. The decision underscores the importance of not only ensuring continuity of D&O coverage before and after a transaction but also evaluating all possible claim scenarios arising out of a deal to ensure that all stakeholders are adequately protected.Continue Reading Insurer Denies Coverage for Deal Litigation Despite Bank Purchasing Runoff Coverage for Pre-Acquisition Alleged Wrongful Acts
On Wednesday, a federal judge in New York denied FM’s Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings after finding the Contamination Exclusion in the Factory Mutual policy to be ambiguous as to whether it bars coverage for business interruption losses resulting from communicable disease. The case is Thor Equities, LLC v. Factory Mutual Ins. Co., No. 20 Civ. 3380 (AT) (SDNY). This is a critical decision under the Factory Mutual policy form, which is substantively the same as policies issued by Factory Mutual’s sister company, Affiliated FM Insurance Company. Factory Mutual and Affiliated FM have maintained that the contamination coverages are “exceptions” to this exclusion, with the exclusion precluding coverage for communicable disease loss under other policy coverages. But the ruling validates what policyholders have been arguing – that communicable disease “loss” is covered throughout the Factory Mutual policy, in addition to under the sublimited communicable disease emergency response coverages.
Continue Reading Factory Mutual’s “Contamination” Exclusion Is Ambiguous; May Not Limit Coverage For COVID-19 Business Interruption Loss
Louisiana joins a growing list of states, including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, and New York that are considering legislation, here and here, that would require insurance coverage for the business interruption losses caused by COVID-19. We have discussed other legislative efforts here and here. The Louisiana House and Senate have each put forth…
Following New Jersey, where similar legislation remains under informal discussion, lawmakers in Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York have now introduced legislation that would provide relief to small businesses for COVID-19 business interruption losses. The legislation is conceptually identical to the legislation introduced in New Jersey, discussed here last week. Although the New Jersey bill was…
Last week, we reported that the New Jersey General Assembly passed a bill that would force property insurers to cover certain business interruption losses arising from COVID-19. The bill presented a lifeline to small businesses in New Jersey that are being racked by the economic fallout stemming from COVID-19. Before reaching the New Jersey…