Professional Liability

The Seventh Circuit held last week that a manufacturer’s insurer must cover its insured, a designer and builder of anaerobic digesters, under its errors and omissions policy for claims alleging breach of contract, despite an exclusion in the policy for claims arising out of the breach of an express or oral contract. The decision in Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Company v. DVO, Inc., No. 18-2571 (7th Cir. Sept. 23, 2019), illustrates the practical application of policy construction to avoid what would otherwise amount to an illusory promise of coverage.
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In an insurance coverage action pending in the S.D.N.Y., Hunt Construction Group (Hunt) contends that Berkley Assurance Company wrongfully denied defense coverage for claims arising out of the renovation of Hard Rock Stadium (home to the Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes football teams).

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A Massachusetts federal court ruled last week that Allied World Insurance Co. must pay for a Boston law firm’s defense of counterclaims asserted against it in a lawsuit over, among other things, the proper ownership of client files and materials.

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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.

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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.


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Last week, Golden Bear Insurance Company became the first admitted insurer approved by the California Department of Insurance to provide insurance coverage for marijuana companies. Golden Bear will now begin offering first- and third-party insurance coverage specifically targeting marijuana companies in the state.

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In MF Global Holdings Ltd. et al. v. Allied World Assurance Co. Ltd. et al., No. 1:16-ap-01251 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Aug. 24, 2017), the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York ordered MF Global Holdings Ltd. and Allied World Assurance Co. Ltd. to arbitrate their $15 million errors-and-omissions coverage dispute in Hamilton, Bermuda. MF Global initiated an adversary proceeding against Allied World in the bankruptcy court after Allied World had refused to pay MF Global for amounts that MF Global returned to its customers’ accounts as part of a settlement of claims against MF Global’s former managers and directors. Allied World denied coverage under its “Bermuda Form” errors-and-omissions policy, claiming that this procedure was tantamount to deposit insurance, and not professional liability insurance, which is what errors-and-omissions coverage typically provides.
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