In responding to a certified question from the Fifth Circuit in Richards v. State Farm Lloyds, the Texas Supreme Court held that the “policy-language exception” to the eight-corners rule articulated by the federal district court is not a permissible exception under Texas law.  See Richards v. State Farm Lloyds, 19-0802, 2020 WL 1313782, at *1 (Tex. Mar. 20, 2020).  The eight-corners rule generally provides that Texas courts may only consider the four corners of the petition and the four corners of the applicable insurance policy when determining whether a duty to defend exists.  State Farm argued that a “policy-language exception” prevents application of the eight-corners rule unless the insurance policy explicitly requires the insurer to defend “all actions against its insured no matter if the allegations of the suit are groundless, false or fraudulent,” relying on B. Hall Contracting Inc. v. Evanston Ins. Co., 447 F. Supp. 2d 634, 645 (N.D. Tex. 2006).  The Texas Supreme Court rejected the insurer’s argument, citing Texas’ long history of applying the eight-corners rule without regard for the presence or absence of a “groundless-claims” clause.
Continue Reading Staying the Course, Texas Supreme Court Rejects Insurer’s Argument for Exception to Eight-Corners Rule in Determining Duty to Defend

On September 18, 2019, a Texas federal court vacated its prior ruling and entered summary judgment for the insured, finding that after a hacker impersonating the customer convinced the insured to wire $1 million out of the customer’s account, the insurer had a duty to defend its insured against claims by its customer because the potential for coverage existed.  See Quality Sausage Company, LLC, et al. v. Twin City Fire Insurance Co., Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-111 (S.D.TX) (Dkt. No. 110).  The prior order was based on disputed extrinsic evidence, which the court considered in deciding the duty to defend, even though Texas’ narrow exception to the “eight corners” rule is limited to only undisputed extrinsic evidence.
Continue Reading Insurer Breached Duty to Defend in Social Engineering Scam

A federal court in Virginia recently held in Travelers Casualty and Surety Company v. Schur, No. 3:15CV60-HEH (E.D.Va., Nov. 24, 2015), that a liability insurer’s so-called “business pursuits” and “known falsity” exclusions do not preclude a defense against defamation allegations where the allegations raised at least a potential for coverage under the policy.  The decision illustrates the continued application of Virginia’s “eight corners” and “potentiality” rules, which mandate a narrow application of the underlying allegations against the language of the policy and require a defense if any allegation raises even a potentiality for coverage.
Continue Reading Virginia Federal Court Rejects Liability Insurer’s “Business Pursuits” and “Known Falsity” Exclusions