Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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The United States District Court for the Southern District Court  concluded that Lincoln Life & Annuity Company of New York was not obligated under New York Insurance Law Section 3203(a)(2) to refund a payment that Plaintiff had deposited into a policy account associated with her life insurance policy five months before she died. Because no New York court has  analyzed this provision of New York insurance law, and because insurance policy implicates significant New York State interests, the Second Circuit deferred a decision on this appeal in order to certify the following question to the New York Court of Appeals: Whether a planned payment into an interest-bearing policy account, as part of a universal life insurance policy, constitutes a “premium actually paid for View "Nitkewicz v. Lincoln Life & Annuity Co. of N.Y." on Justia Law

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Insured Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. and insurer Huntington Ingalls Industries Risk Management LLC seek a declaratory judgment stating there is coverage under a property insurance policy for certain losses incurred by Huntington Ingalls Industries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trial court concluded that the complaint did not allege facts that would trigger coverage under the policy and granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of reinsurers. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court disagreed, reversed the trial court. and remanded for further proceedings. View "Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. et al. v. Ace American Insurance Company et al." on Justia Law

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During the covid-19 pandemic, state and local authorities in Louisiana ordered nonessential businesses to close for a time. This required Plaintiff to temporarily shut his jewelry stores and event spaces in New Orleans. To recoup income lost during the closure, Plaintiff claimed reimbursement under his insurance policy’s coverage for “direct physical loss of or damage to” his property. Plaintiff’s insurer, Axis, denied the claim.   Plaintiff sued Axis along with his insurance agent and broker. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims, concluding that Plaintiff suffered no covered loss or damages and that his agent and broker violated no duty to advise Plaintiff about pandemic-related coverage.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that what denied Plaintiff use of his property was the government’s closure orders. Such losses do not involve a “tangible alteration to, injury to, or deprivation of property.” The district court therefore correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Axis. Further, contrary to Plaintiff’s arguments, what creates a Louisiana insurance agent’s duty to procure particular coverage is not a “close relationship” with the insured but an insured’s “specific” request for “the type of insurance coverage . . . needed.” Here, Plaintiff did not allege he specifically requested pandemic-related coverage from either the wholesale broker or insurance agent, therefore Plaintiff’s claims against those Defendants were properly dismissed. View "Adler & Sons v. Axis Surplus Ins Co" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), sought reversal of a Court of Appeals decision affirming the partial summary judgment rulings that an “all risk” insurance policy did not provide coverage for certain losses. At issue in WSDOT’s petition for review was whether the loss of use or functionality of the insured property constituted “physical loss” or “physical damage” that triggered coverage. STP’s petition asked whether the insurance policy excluded coverage for damage to the insured property caused by alleged design defects and whether the policy covers delay losses. This case arose out of a major construction project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle. In 2011, STP contracted with WSDOT to construct a tunnel to replace the viaduct. The project started in July 2013. A tunnel boring machine (TBM) used in the project stopped working in December 2013, and did not resume until December 2015. The project was unable to continue during the two-year period while the TBM was disassembled, removed, and repaired. STP and WSDOT tendered insurance claims under the Policy. Great Lakes denied coverage, and STP and WSDOT sued the insurers, alleging wrongful denial of their claims. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, finding that even if it interpreted “direct physical loss or damage” to include loss of use, no coverage under Section 1 is triggered because the alleged loss of use was not caused by a physical condition impacting the insured property. View "Seattle Tunnel Partners v. Great Lakes Reinsurance (UK) PLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant OneBeacon Insurance Company reinsured one of three excess insurance policies issued by Plaintiff Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company to policyholder ASARCO, Inc. After developing significant potential liability on claims made by asbestos-injured claimants, ASARCO sought coverage from Fireman’s Fund under all of its excess policies. ASARCO and Fireman’s Fund ultimately settled all of the claims under the three policies. Fireman’s Fund allocated a portion of that settlement to the policy reinsured by OneBeacon and sought reinsurance coverage on the allocated sum. OneBeacon rejected Fireman’s Fund’s claim, arguing that the settlement allocation violated the terms of the excess and reinsurance policies. The district court granted summary judgment to Fireman’s Fund, and OneBeacon appealed.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court that Fireman’s Fund’s allocation of a portion of the settlement to the excess policy reinsured by OneBeacon was not contrary to that policy’s exhaustion requirement or to the terms of the reinsurance policy. OneBeacon is therefore obligated under the reinsurance policy’s follow-the-settlements clause to provide the requested coverage. View "Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. OneBeacon Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Cherokee Nation filed a declaratory judgment action seeking insurance coverage under the business interruption provision of a policy issued by a number of insurers for the economic losses it incurred when it temporarily closed its properties due to the threat of COVID-19. The district court granted Cherokee Nation's motion for partial summary judgment, holding the phrase "direct physical loss" in the business interruption provision of the policy included coverage for losses sustained by property rendered unusable for its intended purpose. The district court also found that none of the exclusions raised by the insurers applied to Cherokee Nation's loss. The insurers appealed, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court retained the appeal, holding that Cherokee Nation's losses were not covered under the business interruption section of the insurance policy at issue. The district court erred in finding business interruption coverage when Cherokee Nation did not sustain immediate, tangible deprivation or destruction of property. View "Cherokee Nation v. Lexington Insurance Co., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff suffered serious injuries when his motorcycle collided with a car driven by a negligent motorist. After exhausting its liability limits, he next looked to the underinsured-motorist benefits of a policy covering just his motorcycle. When those benefits fell short too, he turned to a policy underwritten by Standard Fire Insurance Company that covered vehicles other than his motorcycle.   Relying on what the parties call the owned-but-not-insured exclusion, it denied coverage because the accident occurred with a vehicle that Plaintiff had decided to insure elsewhere. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court agreed with Standard Fire that it owed nothing. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that the exclusion is ambiguous. Even if “this coverage” might lend itself to some ambiguity in isolation, the remainder of the policy points to only one reasonable interpretation: the owned-but-not-insured exclusion applies in precisely this situation. View "John Eberlein v. Standard Fire Ins Co" on Justia Law

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After being hit by an under-insured motorist, Plaintiff experienced worsening symptoms from his Parkinson’s disease. His condition eventually deteriorated to the point that he could no longer work as a doctor. Plaintiff sued Encompass Insurance for $500,000, the maximum available under his automobile policy. The state trial court granted summary judgment to Plaintiff, concluding that Encompass failed to refute that Plaintiff lost at least $500,000 in earning capacity because of the accident. On removal, a federal district court held that it was unable to vacate that judgment.   The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court interpreted Encompass’s notice of appeal as challenging the Arkansas court’s ruling, as merged into the final judgment of the district court, and held that it constituted an appeal of a “final decision of a district court of the United States” under 28 U.S.C. Section 1291.   The court also rejected the district court’s conclusion that a federal court lacks jurisdiction to vacate the state court’s summary judgment order. The court explained that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine has no application to a properly removed case where, as here, there is no attack on a separate and final state-court judgment. Finally, the court held that the Arkansas court erred by granting summary judgment. The conflict between expert witnesses created a genuine dispute of material fact, so summary judgment was improper. View "Paul Wills v. Encompass Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Apple Annie operated restaurants in Marin, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara counties and had comprehensive commercial liability and property insurance through Oregon Mutual for “for direct physical loss of or damage to Covered Property at the [insured] premises,” and to “pay for the actual loss of Business Income you sustain due to the necessary suspension of your ‘operations’ during the ‘period of restoration. The suspension must be caused by direct physical loss of or damage to property at the described premises. The loss or damage must be caused by or result from a Covered Cause of Loss.” The policy did not define “direct physical loss of or damage.”Apple Annie filed claims for losses resulting from the COVID pandemic and ensuing lockdown. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of Oregon Mutual. The policy language,“direct physical loss or damage to,” despite its disjunctive phrasing, is unambiguous. A loss of use simply is not the same as a physical loss. Although the COVID virus has a physical presence, and thus Apple Annie may have suffered economic loss from the physical presence of the COVID virus, it has not suffered “direct physical loss of or damage to [its] property.” View "Apple Annie, LLC v. Oregon Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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This insurance coverage dispute involves claims for coverage by Doe Run Resources Corporation against its insurer, St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company, stemming from multiple lawsuits against Doe Run’s Peruvian subsidiary, Doe Run Peru, which allege various claims stemming from Doe Run Peru’s alleged release of toxic chemicals from a metallurgical plant. After an earlier coverage dispute in state court, where the court determined that a pollution exclusion in St. Paul’s policy precluded coverage, Doe Run filed this action alleging that additional, newly discovered facts implicated an exception to the exclusion that was not raised in the previous state court action. St. Paul filed a motion to dismiss based on issue and claim preclusion. The district court granted the motion based on issue preclusion, and Doe Run appeals.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court did not err in granting St. Paul’s motion to dismiss based on issue preclusion, and because the district court did not err, the court wrote, it need not consider the parties arguments regarding claim preclusion. The court explained that in the absence of subsequent events or circumstances representing an actual change between the prior state court action and this action, issue preclusion applies. Here, St. Paul did reconsider Doe Run’s claim for coverage when Doe Run resubmitted the claim following the nine newly filed lawsuits alleging pollution from the La Oroya plant, which alleged a new theory of liability. View "Doe Run Resources Corporation v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins Co" on Justia Law