In a ruling earlier this month, an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge ruled in Scott, Blane, and Darren Recovery L.L.C., Anova Foods Inc. v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co., No. 17-12945-E, 2018 WL 1611256 (11th Cir. 2018), that an insurer did not have a duty to defend and indemnify its insured in a false marketing suit. Anova Food Inc. was sued by its competitor, King Tuna, for allegedly falsely asserting in its advertising that it treated tuna meat with a smoking process using filtered wood chips. King Tuna claimed that, in reality, Anova treated its tuna with synthetic carbon monoxide. In finding that King Tuna’s lawsuit did not trigger Auto-Owner’s duty to defend, the court held (1) that the lawsuit did allege a covered “advertising injury”; (2) that coverage was excluded under the policy’s “failure to conform” exclusion; and (3) coverage was barred by Anova’s untimely notice of the lawsuit.
In Selective Ins. Co. of the Southeast v. William P. White Racing Stables, Inc. (http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-11th-circuit/1882819.html), the Eleventh Circuit recently ruled that a liability insurer is not required to defend its insured against a claim for spoliation of evidence. In the underlying case a jockey, James Rivera, was paralyzed in a racing accident when the horse he was riding suddenly collapsed. Mr. Rivera sued the race track, Mr. Rivera’s employer, and the horse’s veterinarians, claiming that the horse was not fit to be raced due to the negligence of most of the defendants. His claims against his employer, White Racing Stables, did not assert negligence but alleged that by failing to preserve the horse’s remains, White Racing had violated Florida’s workers compensation law by failing to investigate and pursue Mr. Rivera’s claims against the other defendants. He also asserted a claim for spoliation.
In today’s interconnected society, a cyber breach is inevitable. For energy companies in particular, the threat is even more acute as cyber security improvements lag behind the rapid digitalization in oil and gas operations. One recent cyber security report stated that 68% of respondents reported that their organization experienced at least one cyber compromise. And, just last week, it was disclosed that hackers used sophisticated malware, called “Triton,” to take control of a key safety device at a power plant in Saudi Arabia. Find our analysis of this latest attack on the blog here .
In what has been described as a “watershed” cyber incident, hackers recently used sophisticated malware—dubbed Triton—to take control of a key safety device installed at a power plant in Saudi Arabia. One of the few confirmed hacking tools designed to manipulate industrial control systems, this new breach is part of a growing trend in hacking attempts on utilities, production facilities, and other critical infrastructure in the oil and gas industry. The Triton malware attack targeted the Triconex industrial safety technology made by Schneider Electric SE. The attack underscores the importance of mitigating this and other similar risks through cyber and other traditional liability insurance as part of a comprehensive cybersecurity program.
In a recent insurer’s failure-to-settle case, Hughes v. First Acceptance Ins. Co. of Ga., the Georgia Court of Appeals reaffirmed that there is no hard-set rule conducive to summary judgment; rather, the court ruled that a jury should determine whether the insurer’s actions had been “reasonably prudent.” Plaintiff Robert Jackson allegedly caused a five-vehicle collision that resulted in his death and the serious injuries of others, including Julie An and her minor child, Jina Hong. An and Hong, through their counsel, communicated with Jackson’s insurance company, First Acceptance, stating that they were “interested” in settling their claims within Jackson’s policy limit of $25,000. Counsel also requested that the insurer send him policy information within 30 days. An later claimed that this communication represented an offer of settlement, when, 41 days later, they sent First Acceptance a letter withdrawing their “offer” and stating their intent to file suit due to the insurer’s failure to respond. An and Hong then filed suit and were ultimately awarded $5,334,220 in damages. First Acceptance paid $25,000 towards the award, leaving Jackson’s estate exposed to over five million dollars in damages.
An eye-popping settlement in Georgia serves as a cautionary tale for insurers who refuse to provide a straight answer when responding to a demand for policy limits and as a lesson for insureds dealing with recalcitrant insurers: Don’t just take “no” for an answer.
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.