Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP

Effective April 1, 2020, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP has promoted insurance recovery lawyer, Sergio F. Oehninger, and twelve other attorneys, to partner.  The promotion is a much deserved and hard-earned reward for Oehninger, who is a core member of the Firm’s insurance recovery practice.  Hunton insurance recovery practice head, Walter Andrews, praised Oehninger’s

A Houston-area wig store filed the first Texas COVID-19 lawsuit concerning business interruption losses Thursday in a state court in Harris County. The plaintiff, Barbara Lane Snowden DBA Hair Goals Club, filed suit, a copy of which can be found here, against Twin City Fire Insurance Company, a Hartford Insurance company. The lawsuit alleges that plaintiff has sustained and will continue to sustain covered losses during the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent Harris County Stay Home Order. The lawsuit further alleges that plaintiff already sought coverage for its business interruption costs under the Twin City policy, but that claim was denied. Accordingly, plaintiff has alleged breach of contract, unfair settlement practices, violation of the Prompt Pay Act, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing for Twin City’s wrongful denial of the claim.

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In responding to a certified question from the Fifth Circuit in Richards v. State Farm Lloyds, the Texas Supreme Court held that the “policy-language exception” to the eight-corners rule articulated by the federal district court is not a permissible exception under Texas law.  See Richards v. State Farm Lloyds, 19-0802, 2020 WL 1313782, at *1 (Tex. Mar. 20, 2020).  The eight-corners rule generally provides that Texas courts may only consider the four corners of the petition and the four corners of the applicable insurance policy when determining whether a duty to defend exists.  State Farm argued that a “policy-language exception” prevents application of the eight-corners rule unless the insurance policy explicitly requires the insurer to defend “all actions against its insured no matter if the allegations of the suit are groundless, false or fraudulent,” relying on B. Hall Contracting Inc. v. Evanston Ins. Co., 447 F. Supp. 2d 634, 645 (N.D. Tex. 2006).  The Texas Supreme Court rejected the insurer’s argument, citing Texas’ long history of applying the eight-corners rule without regard for the presence or absence of a “groundless-claims” clause.

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Benchmark Litigation has named Syed Ahmad, a partner in Hunton Andrews Kurth’s Insurance Coverage practice, to the publication’s 40 & Under Hot List. Benchmark Litigation is the definitive guide to America’s leading litigation firms and attorneys. The 40 & Under Hot List honors the most notable up-and-coming litigation attorneys in the United States. Those named to the list have proven their eligibility as individuals at the partner level of their respective firms who are 40 years of age or younger.

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Rosen Millennium Inc. (“Millennium”), the cyber security and IT support subsidiary of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, Inc., has appealed to the Eleventh Circuit contending that a Florida federal court ignored Florida insurance law when it ruled that Travelers Insurance Company has no duty to defend it against a multimillion dollar claim arising out of a cybersecurity breach.

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2018 was a big year for insurance coverage cases, especially those involving social engineering phishing, spoofing and other schemes of trickery and deception.

The insurance recovery lawyers at Hunton Andrews Kurth have compiled their list of the top insurance cases of 2018.  A copy of the Review can be found here.

As the new year gets under way, cases that will shape the insurance landscape in 2019 continue to proceed.  Among them are First Acceptance Ins. Co. v. Hughes, in which the Georgia Supreme Court will address the prerequisites for a policyholder to sue its insurance carrier for bad faith based on the insurer’s failure to settle the underlying dispute for an amount within the available policy limits.  Hunton Andrews Kurth’s insurance practice head, Walter Andrews, was asked by Insurance Law360 to comment on the significance of that case.  As Andrews explained, the insurer’s position is inconsistent with Georgia law.  “Georgia law does not require some particular form of settlement offer — or even an offer at all — to create an insurer’s duty to settle claims against their insureds.” Rather, as Andrews explained, “that duty arises when the insurer knows or reasonably should know that not settling will create an ‘unreasonable risk’ of the insured suffering a judgment in excess of his or her policy limits, regardless of whether a third-party claimant has first presented a settlement offer. Most often, that should be a jury question and not something that is susceptible to summary judgment.”

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In a victory for policyholders, and an honorable mention for Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the dispersal of concrete dust that damaged inventory stored in an aircraft part distributor’s warehouse was a pollutant, as defined by the policy, but that it also constituted “smoke” as that term was defined in the dictionary, thereby implicating an exception to the policy’s pollution exclusion.  The Court then granted summary judgment for the policyholder, who had suffered a $3.2 million loss.[1]

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