As Texas and other Gulf coast areas make final storm preparations, now is a good time to gather insurance information and policies.  Hunton & Williams attorneys, Michael Levine and John Eichman provide important information in the linked article published by The Texas Lawbook concerning insurance issues that are likely to arise in the storm’s wake, including potentially applicable coverages that could go overlooked without proper guidance.

For more information, please visit our Hurricane Insurance Recovery and Advisory center.

Coverage often turns on the meaning of a single word or phrase in an insurance policy. The definition of “counterfeit” in financial institution bonds can be especially tricky. On June 12, 2017, the court in Harvard Sav. Bank v. Sec. Nat’l Ins. Co., No. 15-CV-11674, 2017 WL 2560900, at *1 (N.D. Ill. June 12, 2017) addressed the definition of “counterfeit” in the financial institution bond issued by Security National Insurance Company to Harvard Savings Bank. As the ruling illustrates, terminology that may appear to be insignificant can often make all the difference between millions of dollars in recovery versus no coverage being available. Continue Reading Coverage for “Counterfeit” Securities: Imitation of an Original vs. Imitation of the Original

In a March 17, 2017 opinion, a Minnesota federal court rejected a financial institution bond carrier’s attempt to rescind the bond it issued to a credit union despite the credit union’s manager making a false statement in the bond application that she had no knowledge of any act which might give rise to a claim, after she had embezzled $3 million. See National Credit Union Administration Board v. CUMIS Insurance Society, Inc., No. 16-139, 2017 WL 1047256 (D. Minn. Mar. 17, 2017).  The court refused to attribute the embezzler’s misrepresentation to her employer because, in embezzling the credit union’s money, she was working solely for her own benefit.

Continue Reading Federal Court Says Wrongdoer’s False Statement In Application Does Not Permit Carrier To Rescind Financial Institution Bond And Avoid $3 Million Loss

A panel of the California Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion (Stein v. Axis Ins. Co., (Cal. Ct. App., Mar. 8, 2017, No. B265069) 2017 WL 914623), issued March 8, 2017, held that a policy exclusion requiring “final adjudication” did not support a refusal to pay the policyholder’s defense costs by Houston Casualty Company (HCC) following a trial court’s entry of judgment where the policyholder still could pursue appeal.

Continue Reading D&O Policy’s “Final Adjudication” Provision Requires More Than A Trial Court Judgment

In a July 5, 2016 opinion in Home Loan Inv. Co. v. St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co., the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit addressed claims for bad faith delay or denial of coverage under Colorado law in connection with a fire loss under a foreclosed property protection policy. After a jury verdict in favor of the Insured on its breach of contract and statutory bad faith claims, the Insurer moved for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) regarding the statutory bad faith claim. When its motion was denied, the Insurer appealed.

The Insurer argued in its JMOL and on appeal that because its coverage decision was “fairly debatable,” as a matter of law its coverage decision could not be unreasonable (as required for liability under the bad faith statute). The Insurer contended that denial of a fairly debatable claim is per se reasonable. However, the Tenth Circuit was persuaded by recent opinions from the Colorado Court of Appeals stating that “fair debatability is not a threshold inquiry that is outcome determinative as a matter of law; it is not necessarily sufficient, standing alone, to defeat a bad faith claim.” Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit upheld the district court’s denial of Insurer’s JMOL.

The Insurer also argued that the bad faith statutes applied only to claims-handling activities, and not underwriting activities. Relying on the purpose of the statutes and their broad language, the Tenth Circuit rejected the Insurer’s argument.

Finally, the Insurer contended that the district court erred in awarding damages for breach of contract plus the statutory penalty equal to two times the covered benefit. Relying on the plain language of the statute and Colorado appellate decisions, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s award of damages.

The decision in Home Loan Inv. Co. should serve as a reminder for policyholders that they may still be able to assert a claim for unreasonable denial of coverage even if an insurance company characterizes their claim as “fairly debatable.” Further, insureds may be able to challenge both the underwriting and claims-handling procedures of an insurer under state statutes. Consultation with experienced coverage counsel can help ensure that clients take advantage of all the statutory protections and remedies available.