Blog Archives

South Carolina Code Does Not Invalidate Notice and Cooperation Clauses

In late July, the South Carolina Supreme Court handed down a helpful ruling for insurers when it held that, if an insured fails to give notice to his automobile insurer of a pending claim, the insurer may deny coverage above statutory limits upon a showing that it was substantially prejudiced by its insured’s failure to comply with the standard notice clause in the policy. Neumayer v. Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co., — S.E.2d —, 2019 S.C. LEXIS 67, at *17 (S.C. July 24, 2019). The case involved a motor vehicle accident where a pedestrian, Andrew Neumayer, was struck by a bus driver, suffering severe injuries. Neumayer filed suit against the bus driver who then failed to answer the complaint, and after

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Form and Substance: The Importance of Conducting a Proper Investigation of First-Party Claims Under California Law

A bad faith claim against an insurer often focuses as much on the process of a claims investigation as it does on the substance of a claims decision itself. If the coverage decision was wrong (but not unreasonable), and the investigation was thorough, there may be liability for breach of contract, but there is a reduced risk of liability for bad faith. In contrast, if the coverage decision was wrong, and the insurer also failed to investigate the claim properly, there is a heightened risk of bad faith. Because of this, a proper investigation of the claim is vital to preventing (or defeating) an insured’s bad faith claim. Egan v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company, 24 Cal.3d 809 (1979), is

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Store Display Can Be An “Advertisement” Under Coverage B

In Hershey Creamery Company v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company and Liberty Insurance Corporation, No. 1:18-CV-694, 2019 WL 1900397 (M.D. Penn. May 6, 2019) the court found that a self-serve milkshake machine and related display could constitute an “advertisement” for purposes of insurance coverage, and Hershey was owed a defense for claims alleging patent and trademark infringement of f’real Foods LLC’s (“f’real”) similar machine and display. F’real developed a display kiosk with a blender atop a merchandizing freezer with a see-through glass door. Its milkshake products are displayed in cylindrical sealed cups arrayed in rows and columns within the freezer. The kiosk prominently features f’real’s name with advertising slogans such as “Blend a F’REAL…for REAL” or “REAL Milkshakes, REAL good.”

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Massachusetts: Third-Party Claim Handler Made Reasonable, Prompt Efforts to Settle Nursing Home Liability Claim, and Therefore Was Not Liable For $14 M Excess Verdict

On March 18, 2019, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a decision holding that Sedgwick Claims Management Services made reasonable and prompt efforts to settle a nursing home liability claim, and therefore was not liable for a $14M excess verdict despite the fact that the highest pretrial offer Sedgwick made was for $250,000. Calandro v. Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc. 2019 WL 1236927, ___ F.3d ___ (2019). In a colorful appellate decision notable for its loquaciousness, the First Circuit observed, “every case has its twists and turns, and an insurance carrier is not to be held to a duty of prescience.” In reaching its decision, the Court further observed that “perfection is not the standard” to demonstrate good faith

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Georgia Supreme Court Spares Insurance Company from a $5.3 Million Bad-Faith Verdict

Last week, the Georgia Supreme Court confirmed that an insurance carrier’s duty to settle a claim against its policyholder arises only after an injured claimant presents a “valid offer” to settle within policy limits. In First Acceptance Insurance Company of Georgia v. Hughes,[1] the Court found that, because the letter presented to First Acceptance by the injured parties’ counsel was not a time-limited settlement demand, First Acceptance’s failure to respond before the injured parties withdrew their offer did not constitute negligence or a bad faith failure to settle the claim within policy limits. In 2008, First Acceptance’s policyholder caused a multi-car crash killing the policyholder and injuring five others, including Julie An and her 2-year-old daughter. The policy had the

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The Supreme Court of Texas Clarifies That a Party Can Testify as an Expert Witness without Waiving the Attorney-Client Privilege

Litigation usually involves complex issues related to technology, products, or business processes. In many cases, clients are the best subject-matter experts of their craft. Nevertheless, attorneys are sometimes hesitant to designate a client or a client’s employee as an expert witness for fear of waiving attorney-client privilege. In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of Texas addressed this very issue and held that the attorney-client privilege remains unscathed when a party (or its corporate representative) is designated as a testifying expert witness. See In re City of Dickinson, — S.W.3d —, No. 7-0020, 2019 WL 638555 (Tex. Feb. 15, 2019). Background City of Dickinson concerned whether a property insurer underpaid insurance benefits related to a Hurricane Ike claim made by

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QUITE THE SPLIT: LOUISIANA THIRD CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEAL APPLIES TEN-YEAR PRESCRIPTIVE PERIOD TO CONTRACT-BASED BAD FAITH CLAIMS

In a surprising decision on rehearing, on February 4, 2019, a panel of the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal reversed itself and held that bad faith claims arising out of an insurance contract are subject to a ten-year prescriptive period rather than a one-year prescriptive period.[1] Fils v. Starr Indemnity & Liability Company, — so. 3d — (La. App. 3rd Cir. 5/9/2018)(on r’hrg), centered on the timeliness of the plaintiff’s bad faith claims against his uninsured motorist carrier. Dissatisfied with the $45,000 that his UM carrier had tendered following a motor vehicle accident on August 28, 2013, the policyholder filed suit against the insurer for additional benefits the day before the expiration of the two-year prescriptive period applicable to

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In Rhode Island, No Duty of Good Faith to Third Party Claimant

In Summit Insurance Company v. Stricklett, — A.3d —, No. 2017185APPEALPC12536, 2019 WL 190358, (R.I. Jan. 15, 2019), the Supreme Court of Rhode Island held that – similar to many jurisdictions – the duty to act in a reasonable manner and in good faith settling a claim does not run to the claimant absent an assignment from the insured. The facts of Stricklett are simple. Mr. Stricklett’s vehicle was insured by Summit under a policy with a $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident coverage limit. In 2002, Stricklett allegedly collided with eleven-year-old Scott Alves, requiring that Alves undergo medical treatment. Alves’s parents submitted the medical bill to Summit Insurance Company, who investigated the incident and determined that Stricklett was not

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ALLEGED BAD FAITH FAILURE TO ADVISE POLICYHOLDER OF CONSEQUENCES OF SETTLEMENT CONDUCT CAUSES INSURER TO SETTLE $22 MILLION LAWSUIT

Progressive recently settled a bad faith lawsuit with the guardians of a child injured in a car accident driven by a Progressive policyholder, Earl Lloyd. Progressive faced liability for an underlying judgment in excess of $22 million against Lloyd, who had purchased a $10,000 auto policy from Progressive. The bad faith lawsuit alleged that Progressive failed to advise its insured regarding the significance of executing a financial affidavit. Had the insured executed the financial affidavit, the claimant allegedly would have accepted the insured’s $10,000 policy limits in exchange for a release of Lloyd. The case, Wallace Mosley v. Progressive American Insurance Company, was set for trial beginning December 10, 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of

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From Birdseed to Crop Dusting, Liability-Triggering Event Determines Number of Occurrences

Texas applies the “cause” test to determine the number of accidents or occurrences, but its emphasis on the “liability-triggering event” requires an analysis of intervening causes. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals doubled-down on its focus on the liability-triggering event, reversing the trial court and finding a truck driver’s negligent operation of his vehicle that caused multiple collisions (four autos and a toll plaza booth) was one accident for purposes of liability insurance in Evanston Ins. Co. v. Mid-Continent Cas. Co., —F.3d.—, No. 17-20812, 2018 WL 6037507. The court acknowledged that the analysis espoused in Pincoffs[1] and Goose Creek[2] (i.e., count the number of acts by the insured that give rise to liability) is incomplete because it does not address

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Avoiding Insurance Bad Faith
Cozen O’Connor represents insurance clients in jurisdictions throughout the U.S. against statutory and common law first- and third-party extracontractual claims for actual and consequential damages, penalties, punitive and exemplary damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and coverage payments. Whether bad faith claims are addenda to a broader coverage matter or are central to the complaint, Cozen O’Connor attorneys know how to efficiently respond to extracontractual causes of action. More
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