In one of the top insurance-coverage decisions of 2021, the Montana Supreme Court at the end of the year handed down a landmark decision adopting the continuous trigger of coverage and “all sums” allocation, finding a duty to defend and ruling that the qualified, or “sudden and accidental” pollution exclusion did not apply. Nat’l Indem. Co. v. State, 499 P.3d 516 (Mont. 2021). The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reserved in part the rulings entered by the trial court, largely upholding a $98,000,000 judgment for the State against its CGL insurer for the policy years 1973 to 1975. The ruling thus helps ensure coverage for the hundreds of claims alleging that the State had failed to warn claimants of the dangers of asbestos exposures to workers in vermiculite mining and milling operations in Libby, Montana, operated by W. R. Grace (the “Libby Mine”).
Continue Reading Landmark Montana Supreme Court Decision Series: Trigger and Allocation

A New Mexico court recently granted judgment on the pleadings against an insurer and found coverage, reminding the insurer that different words in a policy, indeed, have different meanings.

In Power of Grace, LLC v. Weatherby, Power of Grace, a policyholder, sued its insurer, Hudson Insurance Companies, and its insurance agent, Weatherby-Eisenrich Inc.  Power of Grace alleged that Weatherby and Hudson were liable for damages it might incur in an underlying wrongful death lawsuit arising from a tractor-trailer accident. 
Continue Reading Tomato-Tomato? – New Mexico Court Offers Insurer a $5 Million Reminder that Different Words Have Different Meanings

In September, we discussed a Florida district court’s finding that an insurer must defend a Miami strip club in a lawsuit filed by 17 models who alleged the club used their images to promote its business without authorization. Recently, an Illinois federal judge ruled similarly, ordering that First Mercury Insurance Company defend its insured, Triple Location, against a similar lawsuit.

In First Mercury Insurance Co. v. Triple Location LLC, three models sued the insured strip club after it allegedly published their images without consent. The models claimed the unauthorized postings created the false impression that they had agreed to promote the insured business, Club O, which harmed their image, brand, and marketability. The models also alleged that the club was negligent in failing to adopt and implement policies and procedures to prevent the misappropriation of images.


Continue Reading Insurer Must Bare All and Defend Strip Club Against Infringement Claims

A North Carolina court recently ruled in favor of all sums allocation. Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC v. AG Insurance SA/NV, No. 17 CVS 5594 (N.C. Sup. Ct.). In that case, Duke Energy is seeking coverage for “liabilities linked to coal combustion residuals (‘CCRs’), i.e., coal ash, at fifteen Duke-owned power plants in North and South Carolina.” In a recent summary judgment decision, the court resolved a dispute between Duke and TIG Insurance Company, as successor to Ranger Insurance Company, about whether all sums allocation or pro rata allocation applied.

Continue Reading North Carolina Court Rules In Favor Of All Sums

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

In Dunn, et al. v. Columbia National Insurance Company, No. 2:17-cv-0246 (N.D. Ga.), an insurance company refused to defend an insured in a personal injury claim contending that the insured failed to cooperate in the defense. The underlying claim stemmed from an automobile accident, where an employee of Lawson Air Conditioning and Plumbing, Inc. (“Lawson”), Ronald Patterson, struck members of the Dunn family with a pickup truck owned by Lawson as the family was walking out of a Walmart store. The Dunn family members suffered bodily injury as a proximate result of the accident.  Patterson admitted fault.

Continue Reading Insurer Cannot Invoke Duty to Cooperate as Affirmative Defense After Denying Coverage

A federal court in Illinois ruled recently, in Cincinnati Insurance Company v. H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Company, that Cincinnati Insurance Company was required to indemnify H.D. Smith for a $3.5 million settlement it reached with the State of West Virginia.  The settlement resolved an action in which West Virginia alleged that H.D. Smith contributed to the state’s opioid addiction epidemic through its negligent distribution of opioid prescription drugs.

Continue Reading Opioid Settlement Triggers Insurer’s Duty to Indemnify Where Covered Claims Are “Primary Focus” of the Action

The Third Circuit ruled on Friday that differing “occurrence” definitions can have materially different meanings in the context of whether product defect claims constitute an “occurrence” triggering coverage under general liability insurance policies. The Court held in Sapa Extrusions, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, that product claims against Sapa may be covered under policies that define an “occurrence” as an accident resulting in bodily injury or property damage “neither expected nor intended from the standpoint of the insured.”  However, the Court affirmed that coverage was not triggered under policies lacking the “expected” or “intended” limitation, reasoning that, under those policies, there was no question that the intentional manufacturing of Sapa’s product was too foreseeable to amount to an “accident.”

Continue Reading Third Circuit Limits Pennsylvania’s Kvaerner Decision; Unexpected and Unintended Injury May Constitute an “Occurrence” Under Pennsylvania Law

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently held that Zurich American Insurance Company was obligated to defend Electricity Maine, LLC in a class action lawsuit brought by its customers.  The case stems from alleged misconduct by Electricity Maine that resulted in customers receiving higher bills than were previously represented.  Plaintiffs Jennifer Chon and Katherine Veilleux sought to represent a class of approximately 200,000 customers seeking damages totaling approximately $35 million.  Specifically, the complaint asserted claims for negligence, negligent misrepresentation, violations under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18. U.S.C. §§ 1962, 1964, and the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Continue Reading First Circuit Court of Appeals Holds That Insurer Must Defend Electricity Company Against Class Action Lawsuit