Hunton insurance attorneys Syed Ahmad and Patrick McDermott recently wrote a chapter on insurance law in the District of Columbia to the newest edition of the District of Columbia Practice Manual. The chapter of the Practice Manual, in its 26th edition, is available here and now covers topics including the duties to defend and indemnify, insurers’ defenses to coverage, allocation issues, bad faith, policy interpretation principles, and coverage for cyber events.

A California federal court found coverage under AIG’s general liability policy for the defense and indemnity of email scanning suits against Yahoo!. Those suits generally alleged that Yahoo! profited off of scanning its users’ emails. Because the allegations gave rise to the possibility that Yahoo! disclosed private content to a third party, the court found that the suit potentially fell within the coverage for “oral or written publication, in any manner, of material that violates a person’s right of privacy.” Thus, AIG’s duty to defend was triggered.

The court also found that AIG had a duty to indemnify for Yahoo!’s settlement in the email scanning suits. One key question was whether the settlement amount paid as attorneys’ fees to plaintiff’s counsel constituted damages under the policy. The court concluded that they were, based on the fact that the plaintiffs sought attorneys’ fees under a statute and on its finding that Yahoo! would reasonably expect that those fees would qualify as damages.

Yahoo! had also alleged that AIG acted in bad faith in its claims handling because AIG had denied coverage for the first two lawsuits and then ultimately acknowledged such an obligation with respect to the third lawsuit and in so doing had cited exclusions that were not a part of the policy. The court found that issue was one for a jury to decide.

This decision is another example that valuable cyber coverage for defense and indemnification may be available under general liability policies. Of course, whether there is coverage will depend on the particulars of the claim and the insurance policy.

To follow up on our post last week recapping a recent Ninth Circuit decision regarding coverage for losses from a social engineering scheme, federal appellate courts continue to examine the coverage available for such losses. As Law360 highlighted, and as we previously reported (here, here, here, and here), appeals are pending in the Second, Sixth, and Eleventh circuits. These cases, some of which involve lower court findings of coverage while others do not, show that coverage for social engineering scams remains hotly contested, which means policyholders must carefully consider such coverage when purchasing insurance. While more and more insurers have introduced endorsements designed to specifically address social engineering schemes, as Hunton attorney Patrick McDermott recently pointed out in a separate Law360 piece, one issue policyholders ought to consider is “whether an endorsement providing coverage for losses resulting from social engineering schemes actually narrows the coverage available for those losses.”

On April 17, 2018, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court decision finding that an exclusion barred coverage for a $700,000 loss resulting from a social engineering scheme. Aqua Star (USA) Corp. v. Travelers Cas. & Surety Co. of Am., No. 16-35614 (9th Cir. Apr. 17, 2018). The scheme involved fraudsters who, while posing as employees, directed other employees to change account information for a customer. The employees changed the account information and sent four payments to the fraudsters.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Finds Exclusion Bars Coverage For Social Engineering Scheme

In an article recently featured in FC&S Legal, Hunton & Williams insurance lawyers Syed Ahmad and Patrick McDermott discuss ways to guard against waiver of the attorney-client privilege when cooperating with insurers providing Representations & Warranties insurance coverage. The full article can be found here.

In a recent brief filed in the Sixth Circuit, American Tooling Center, Inc. argued that the appellate court should reverse the district court’s decision finding no insurance coverage for $800,000 that American Tooling lost after a fraudster’s email tricked an employee into wiring that amount to the fraudster. As we previously reported here, the district court found the insurance policy did not apply because it concluded that American Tooling did not suffer a “direct loss” that was “directly caused by computer fraud,” as required for coverage under the policy. The district count pointed to “intervening events” like the verification of production milestones, authorization of the transfers, and initiating the transfers without verifying the bank account information and found that those events precluded a “finding of ‘direct’ loss ‘directly caused’ by the use of any computer.”

Continue Reading Policyholder Urges 6th Circuit To Reverse Decision Finding No Coverage For Computer Fraud

Last week Bloomberg Law launched an online “cyber insurance suite” authored by Hunton attorneys, Walter J. Andrews, Sergio F. Oehninger, and Patrick M. McDermott. The online suite, available here and to Bloomberg subscribers, covers all aspects of cyber insurance, including identifying the major cyber risks and liabilities, applying for and obtaining cyber insurance coverage, and submitting claims under cyber coverages. It also contains an overview of case law evaluating coverage for cyber liabilities under traditional insurance policies and under cyber specific insurance policies. Hunton will regularly update the suite as the risks, coverages, and law continues to develop.

A California state court recently rejected an excess insurer’s attempt at an early exit from litigation over whether it owes coverage for cyber liabilities. In that case (previously summarized here), the policyholder, Cottage Health, suffered a data breach resulting in the disclosure of patients’ private medical information. Subject to a reservation of rights, Cottage Health’s primary insurer, Columbia Casualty, paid millions of dollars to help respond to the data breach and to defend and settle a class action lawsuit filed against Cottage Health. Cottage Health’s excess insurer was Lloyd’s.

Continue Reading Excess Insurer Must Stay In Cyber Insurance Case