In an article published in Law360, Hunton & Williams LLP partners Walter Andrews, Malcolm Weiss, and I discuss two recent decisions in Tree Top Inc. v. Starr Indem. & Liab. Co., No. 1:15-CV-03155-SMJ, 2017 WL 5664718 (E.D. Wash. Nov. 21, 2017). There, the Eastern District of Washington rejected an insurer’s attempt to escape insurance coverage for a Proposition 65 lawsuit filed against juice-maker Tree Top Inc.
Continue Reading “3 Takeaways Squeezed Out of Juicer’s Insurance Battle” – Hunton Attorneys Discuss Insurance Coverage for Prop. 65 Claims and Key Takeaways from Recent Set of Washington District Court Rulings.
In Centurion Med. Liab. Protective Risk Retention Grp., Inc. v. Gonzalez, No. CV 17-01581 RGK (JCx), 2017 BL 392431 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 1, 2017), Centurion Medical Liability Protective Risk Retention Group sought a declaration that it owed no duty to defend a lawsuit alleging that its insureds—a group of medical practitioners—committed professional negligence during the delivery of a newborn child. Centurion argued that it had no defense obligation because its insureds did not notify Centurion of the lawsuit within 20 days after it was filed, as required under the policy.
Maryland’s highest court recently held that a policyholder’s failure to provide notice of a lawsuit for two and a half years was no basis for a denial of coverage. The court in Nat’t Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, PA v. Fund for Animals, Inc. held instead that, because National Union could not prove it suffered “actual prejudice” as a result of the late notice, Fund For Animals, Inc. (“FFA”) was entitled to receive the coverage it contracted for under its non-for-profit liability insurance policy (the “Policy”).
The Eleventh Circuit recently held in G.M. Sign, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co., that, by denying coverage for a lawsuit filed against its insured, St. Paul waived the policy’s notice requirements, thus obviating the need for the policyholder to provide notice of a second similar lawsuit arising out of the same acts and asserting the same claims. The policyholder, MFG.com, was sued in a class action filed in November 2008 by GM Sign, Inc., which alleged that MFG.com had sent numerous unsolicited faxes in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), among other things. After St. Paul denied coverage, MFG.com and GM Sign stipulated to the dismissal of the first lawsuit without prejudice in July 2009. The next day, GM Sign filed a new class action complaint against MFG.com alleging the same claims on behalf of the same class of plaintiffs as the first suit. MFG.com did not tender the second suit to St. Paul. As part of the $22.5 million settlement of the second suit, GM Sign took an assignment of MFG.com’s right to payment from St. Paul and filed suit to recover insurance proceeds and for bad faith. St. Paul responded, contending that MFG.com breached the policy’s notice provision by failing to provide notice of the second lawsuit.
On April 14, 2016, in the case of St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co. v. Am. Bank Holdings, Inc., 15-1559, 2016 WL 1459517, at *1 (4th Cir. Apr. 14, 2016), the Fourth Circuit held that notice to a registered agent started the clock for purposes of calculating timely notice under American Bank’s liability policy with St. Paul. The policyholder, American Bank Holdings, Inc., provided untimely notice after the registered agent forwarded the underlying lawsuit to American Bank’s CFO, who was no longer with the business. With no apparent back-up for the CFO, the underlying lawsuit remained untouched until the plaintiff obtained and sought to enforce a $98.5 million default judgment. When American Bank alerted St. Paul, the insurer denied coverage based on untimely notice under the policy’s provision that notice be given “as soon as practicable, but in no event later than: (a) sixty (60) days after expiration of the Policy Year in which the Claim was first made.” American Bank later spent approximately $1.8 million in attorneys’ fees and costs getting the default judgment vacated and the state-court lawsuit dismissed.
On February 11, 2016, New Jersey’s highest court held that National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (“National Union”) could refuse coverage for Templo Fuente De Vida Corp. and Fuente Properties Inc.’s settlement with policyholder First Independent Financial Group under a “claims-made” directors and officers policy because First Independent did not provide notice “as soon as practicable.”