Yearly Archives: 2017

Washington: Third-Party Administrators and Adjusters Can Be Liable in Bad Faith Actions

On April 11, 2017, the Division III Washington Court of Appeals, on a 2 to 1 vote, held that third party administrators and adjusters can be liable in bad faith actions under multiple legal theories.  Merriman v. Am. Guar. & Liab. Ins. Co., No. 33929-7-III (Apr. 11, 2017). In Merriman, the storage warehouse owned by Bernd Moving Systems (“Bernd”) and its customer-owned contents, burned to the ground. Customers William and Colleen Merriman (“Merrimans”) lost contents worth over $300,000. Before the fire, the Merrimans had been assured by Bernd that their property would be fully insured. Following the fire, the insurer engaged an independent adjusting firm (“IA”) to adjust the claims for the fire and more broadly administer the entire review,

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South Carolina Federal District Court: Insurer May Act in Bad Faith by Considering Extrinsic Evidence to Deny Duty to Defend

On February 6, 2017, the United States District Court, District of South Carolina, found a genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether a Roofing Limitation Endorsement in a liability policy barred the insurer’s duty to defend. Williford Roofing, Inc. v. Endurance Am. Specialty Ins. Co., 2017 WL 479507, at *3-4 (D.S.C. Feb. 6, 2017). Moreover, while an insurer’s defense obligations are “not strictly controlled by the complaint” under South Carolina law, evaluating the complaint is the insurer’s “first step.” Id. at *4. Here, the district court found the insurer skipped the first step and instead looked first to extrinsic evidence to “deny coverage altogether.” Id. As such, the court concluded the trier of fact could find the insurer

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Large Deductibles and Self-Insured Retentions – Potential Bad Faith Exposures

As the economy recovers from the Great Recession, the insurance industry is experiencing an increase in the need to evaluate risk retention and risk transfer mechanisms tailored to the commercial policyholders’ risk management goals as applied to its policy provisions and obligations owed to its insured. Whether labeled as a large or high deductible, matching deductible, or self-insured retention, these mechanisms are governed by the plain language of the relevant policy provision or endorsement and insurers and insureds alike can minimize potential exposures by ensuring that the relevant policy language aligns with their intent. In addition, these vehicles bring their own set of unique considerations in order to maintain good faith practices. For example, in Roehl Transport, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual

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Webinar: Review of Significant Bad Faith Cases in 2016 (3/23/2017 at 11:30a – 12:30p ET)

Julia Molander and Jennifer Kennedy-Coggins of the Global Insurance Department present this one-hour Cozen O’Connor webinar which will provide a review of some of the most significant insurance coverage bad faith cases decided across the United States in 2016. The speakers will examine key decisions, provide a discussion of the bad faith trends, and discuss the practical tips that can be gleaned from the courts’ 2016 decisions. The goal of this presentation is to take away practical tips on how insurers can avoid bad faith and how to address and handle claims through discovery and trial. In this webinar, the speakers will discuss: The latest trends in punitive damage awards Discovery of “institutional” bad faith Bad faith standards, from strict liability to heinous misconduct

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Mediation Statements in Federal Courts May or May Not be Privileged and Can Be Waived

The Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri declined to recognize a mediation privilege in In re Lake Lotawana Community Improvement District, 2016 WL 7984347 (Bankr. W.D. Mo. Sept. 19, 2016), despite the fact that it conceded that other circuits have done so. Lake Lotawana did not involve a mediation with a plaintiff and an insured; however, the cases presented by the parties drew heavily from the case law in the bad faith context. More specifically, in a Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceeding, the debtor must allege that it negotiated in good faith at a pre-petition mediation. In Lake Lotawana, the mediation failed and the debtor alleged as a prerequisite to filing a Chapter 9 proceeding that it had negotiated

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“Succeeds to the Interests of” Does Not Require Assumption of Obligations: D&O Policy’s Insured v. Insured Exclusion Applies to Claim Assigned to Fidelity Insurer; No Bad Faith

On February 24, 2017, the Texas Supreme Court reinstated a state trial court ruling that an “insured-versus insured” exclusion barred coverage under a D&O policy for the costs of defending a lawsuit. Because the D&O insurer demonstrated, as a matter of law, that the exclusion applied and no coverage existed, the high court also held the extra-contractual claims were properly disposed. See Great Am. Ins. Co. v. Primo, 2017 WL 749870, at *4 (Tex. Feb. 24, 2017). The individual insured, Robert Primo, previously served as a director and treasurer of Briar Green Condominium Association in Houston, Texas. In 2008 and, shortly before resigning, Primo wrote himself two checks from Briar Green’s account totaling roughly $100,000. Briar Green asserted the funds

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Alaska Creates Exception to General Rule that Injured Party Cannot Sue Insured’s Carrier

The Supreme Court of Alaska in Burnett v. Government Employees Insurance Company, 2017 WL 382648 (Alaska 2017) recently decided in a 3-2 decision that an insurer who voluntarily assumed the responsibility for cleaning up an oil spill on a third party’s property caused by its insured may become liable to that third party if it does not correctly handle the cleanup operations. GEICO argued that its obligations to its insured effectively negated any responsibility to third parties for improperly performing that clean up duty. The Court, over a strenuous dissent, rejected GEICO’s argument holding that an insurer who undertakes an independent obligation to a third party creates a new and independent duty to the third party claimant. GEICO was alleged

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Are Attorneys’ Bills Privileged Once Litigation Ends – California Supreme Court Says No in ACLU Litigation?

The California Supreme Court recently held, in Los Angeles Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court (2016) that attorneys’ invoices may not be protected by the attorney-client privilege after litigation ends. The issue arose out of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU to obtain billing records by law firms representing the City of Los Angeles to defend litigation brought by jail inmates. The ACLU’s position was that these law firms engaged in “scorched earth” tactics. The Court affirmed some limitations on production of these bills. The Court conceded that information could be protected if it tells the client “of the nature or amount of work occurring in connection with a pending legal event” or even an uptick in amounts spent “could

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Alert! — Washington Supreme Court Limits “Insurance Fair Conduct Act”

Earlier this month, the Washington Supreme Court strictly limited Washington’s “Insurance Fair Conduct Act” (IFCA) private cause of action. Enacted in 2007, IFCA provides for uncapped triple-damages awards, and mandates attorney fee awards.  However, the statute’s enabling provisions restrict IFCA claimants to insureds whose claims for coverage or payment of benefits are unreasonably denied.  Therefore, as clarified in Perez-Cristanos v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 2017 WL 448991, 2017 Wash. LEXIS 92, ___ Wn.2d ___ (2017), IFCA claims cannot proceed based only on alleged violations of claims regulations (for example, untimely insurer responses to the claimant’s communications), without a related denial of the insured’s coverage or benefits. The full Cozen O’Connor Alert! is linked here. About The Author

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Fifth Circuit Provides Road Map for Review and Trial of Bad Faith Claims in Mississippi

Mississippi essentially has three levels of claim when insurance is at issue: (1) mere breach of contract, allowing recovery of contract damages; (2) breach of contract + no arguable basis for breach, which entitles recovery of consequential damages; and (3) breach of contract + no arguable basis for breach + malice/gross disregard for the rights of the insured, which entitles the recovery of punitive damages.  In Briggs v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 2016 WL 7232136 (5th Cir. Dec. 16, 2016), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals approved the bifurcation of the trial of an insurance dispute by the district court.  In so doing, the Fifth Circuit provided a road map for how such claims should be handled for

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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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