Commercial general liability insurance policies are often written on an “occurrence” basis. An “occurrence” is typically defined as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.” Coverage, therefore, requires generally that the “bodily injury” or “property damage” (or “advertising injury” or “personal injury”) happen fortuitously during the effective policy period. Central to this inquiry is knowing when the injury or damage took place. Continue Reading Policyholders Score Win as Another State’s High Court Adopts the “Continuous-Trigger” Theory for General Liability Policies

The Fifth Circuit recently held that Blue Bell Creameries’ commercial general liability (CGL) insurers do not have a duty to defend the ice cream company in a shareholder lawsuit, which arose from a Listeria outbreak. The decision underscores the importance of coordination of different coverages and policies across insurance programs, as well as the potential perils policyholders may face if forced to seek recovery for certain losses under non-traditional policies.Continue Reading The Scoop On The Fifth Circuit’s Ruling Against Blue Bell Ice Cream

In this final post in the Blog’s Landmark Montana Supreme Court Decision Series, we discuss the court’s ruling on the known loss doctrine and its interpretation of “occurrence” in National Indemnity Co. v. State, 499 P.3d 516 (Mont. 2021).
Continue Reading Landmark Montana Supreme Court Decision Series: Known Loss Doctrine & Interpretation of “Occurrence”

In this month’s Recall Roundup on the Hunton Andrews Kurth Retail Law Resource blog, Hunton insurance attorneys Syed S. Ahmad and Geoffrey B. Fehling weighed in on a recent food contamination insurance coverage dispute, Travelers Casualty Insurance Co. of America v. Mediterranean Grill & Kabob, Inc. (W.D. Tex. Nov. 4, 2020), which dealt with single versus multiple “occurrences” under an insurance policy, a common issue in recall and contamination-related claims.
Continue Reading Texas Court Treats 124 Separate Food Poisoning Cases as Single “Occurrence”

Pennsylvania’s highest court recently rejected Erie Insurance Exchange’s argument that it had no duty to defend a claim arising out of a shooting because it did not involve an accident, and therefore, there was no “occurrence” under the policy. The court held that the duty to defend was triggered because the underlying allegations were not “patently outside the policy coverage.” This decision can have far reaching effects on other kinds of claims involving intentional conduct.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania Court Holds That Violent Acts Are Not Lethal To The Duty To Defend

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

In a prior post, we discussed a New York trial-court decision that found an insurance policy issued in 1966, to insure the construction of the World Trade Center, continues to cover modern-day asbestos claims, with each claim constituting an individual occurrence.  Last week, in American Home Assurance Co. v. The Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., 7628-7628A (1st Dep’t Nov. 15, 2018), an intermediate appellate court affirmed that decision, agreeing that coverage is triggered for claims tied to alleged asbestos exposure at the WTC site in the 1960s and ’70s.
Continue Reading New York Appellate Court Affirms 1966 Insurance Policy Continues to Cover WTC Asbestos Claims

On January 9, 2018, the Northern District of California held that the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California owed defense coverage to a pair of Scientology-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers for two lawsuits filed in Georgia and Oklahoma alleging that staff members had provided drugs and alcohol to patients, which resulted in injury and death. In Western World Ins. Co. v. Nonprofits Ins. Alliance of California, No. 14-cv-04466-EJD (N.D. Cal. Jan. 9, 2018), the court confirmed the broad scope of an insurer’s duty to defend under California law and rejected the insurer’s attempt to unreasonably expand the application of a “professional services” exclusion to avoid coverage.
Continue Reading California Court Holds that Drug- and Alcohol-related Injuries Are Not Barred by Professional Services Exclusion