Articles Posted in Insurance Law

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Hennen worked as a sales specialist for NCR, 2010-2012, and was covered by long-term disability insurance under a group policy provided by MetLife. She sought treatment for a back injury. When physical therapy and surgery failed to resolve her injury, Hennen applied for long-term disability benefits. Acting as plan administrator, MetLife agreed that Hennen was disabled and paid benefits for two years. The plan has a two-year limit for neuromusculoskeletal disorders, subject to exceptions, including on for radiculopathy, a “Disease of the peripheral nerve roots supported by objective clinical findings of nerve pathology.” After MetLife terminated Hennen’s benefits, she sued under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. 1001 (ERISA), arguing that MetLife’s determination that she did not have radiculopathy was arbitrary and capricious. The district court granted MetLife summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed. MetLife acted arbitrarily when it discounted the opinions of four doctors who diagnosed Hennen with radiculopathy in favor of the opinion of one physician who ultimately disagreed, but only while recommending additional testing that MetLife declined to pursue. View "Hennen v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA, Insurance Law

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Packgen's customer, CRI, required a new type of intermediate bulk container (IBC) for a chemical catalyst used in refining crude oil into other petroleum products. The new IBC's outer surface consisted primarily of polypropylene fabric rather than metal; it could be collapsed for storage. CRI's catalyst is self-heating and can ignite when exposed to oxygen. Packgen engaged Berry to manufacture a laminate of woven polypropylene chemically bonded to aluminum foil, to strengthen the IBC’s exterior and serve as a barrier to oxygen, ultraviolet light, and infrared radiation. By April 2008, Packgen was selling an average of 1,261 IBCs per month to CRI and was making overtures to other petroleum refiners. While CRI personnel were lifting an IBC full of catalyst, the foil layer separated from the polypropylene, exposing the interior lining. Other failures followed, some resulting in fires. Packgen determined that foil laminate obtained from Berry was defective. CRI canceled pending orders and destroyed and refused to pay for IBCs that Packgen had provided. Word reached other potential Packgen customers. Packgen sued Berry. The First Circuit affirmed an award of $7.2 million in damages. Berry unsuccessfully demanded that Illinois National indemnify it for all but the first $1 million, which Berry’s primary liability insurer agreed to cover. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Illinois National. The policy covers damages that Berry is required to pay “because of … Property Damage.” While some portion of the lost profits award might be attributable to property damage, Berry did not attempt to make that showing. View "Berry Plastics Corp. v. Illinois National Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Cehovic’s employer offered its employees an insurance benefit plan through ReliaStar. Cehovic had two ReliaStar policies: a basic policy with a death benefit of $263,000, and a supplemental policy with a death benefit of $788,000. Both listed his sister, Cehovic‐Dixneuf, as the sole and primary beneficiary. After Cehovic died, his ex‐wife claimed that she and the child she had with Cehovic were entitled to the death benefits from the supplemental policy. The district court granted summary judgment for Cehovic‐Dixneuf. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires administrators of employee benefit plans to comply with the documents that control the plans, 29 U.S.C. 1104(a)(1)(D). For life insurance policies, that means death benefits are paid to the beneficiary designated in the policy, notwithstanding equitable arguments or claims that others might assert. The supplemental policy is governed by ERISA even though Cehovic paid all of its premiums without any direct subsidy from the employer. Cehovic’s employer performed all administrative functions associated with the maintenance of the policy. The plan description made clear that the supplemental life insurance policy would remain part of the employer’s group policy, but could be converted to an individual policy in certain situations. Nothing in the record shows that Cehovic executed a conversion. View "Cehovic-Dixneuf v. Wong" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA, Insurance Law

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Fiorentini is the owner and president of a small technology company. When cancer treatment left him unable to perform his job, he received total disability benefits under a Paul Revere policy. Five years later, after Fiorentini was back at work and exercising full control of the company, Paul Revere notified him that he no longer qualified for the benefits. Fiorentini argued that he still satisfied the policy’s requirements for total disability because, although he could perform most of his job duties, he was unable to do what it takes to generate new business. Paul Revere rejected that argument, encouraging him to apply for “residual disability benefits,” which would have required Fiorentini to show that he was either unable to perform “one or more of the important duties” of his occupation or could only perform his important job duties for “80% of the time normally required to perform them” and that he earned at least 20% less than he did predisability. Fiorentini instead sued for breach of contract. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Paul Revere. The total disability provision does not cover the insured who has a diminished ability to perform his occupation, but rather the insured who is unable to continue it. View "Fiorentini v. Paul Revere Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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At age 56, Newman purchased a long-term-care insurance plan MetLife, opting for one of MetLife’s non-standard options for paying her insurance premiums, “Reduced-Pay-at 65.” From the outset, Newman paid the elevated premium associated with her Reduced-Pay option. When she reached age 65, her premium was cut in half. When Newman was 67 years old, she was startled to discover that MetLife that year more than doubled her insurance premium. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of Newman’s proposed class action, alleging breach of contract, deceptive and unfair business practices, and common-law fraud. The allegations raised in the complaint were enough to entitle Newman to prevail on the liability phase of her contract claim and to go forward on her remaining claims. The policy language is at least ambiguous, because it can be read reasonably to fix a person’s premium, if she had opted for the Reduced-Pay option. Illinois construes ambiguous contracts against the insurer. Newman’s complaint also alleged facts that plausibly show that MetLife’s policy was both deceptive and unfair under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and adequately alleged fraudulent concealment and reasonable reliance. View "Newman v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co" on Justia Law

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Hyland was a passenger in a car owned by Perkins and driven by Smith, age 16. Smith smashed the car into two parked vehicles, seriously injuring Hyland. Smith was convicted of aggravated reckless driving. Neither Smith nor her parents had auto insurance. Perkins had insurance with Liberty Mutual, covering her family, including her daughter Risby and anyone driving the car with the family’s permission. Smith told Liberty Mutual that Risby gave her the keys during a party; Risby denied doing that and said that she gave the keys to “Rob,” who was never identified. The police reported that Smith told many incompatible stories. Liberty Mutual would not provide a defense or indemnity. Smith defaulted. A state court entered a $4.6 million judgment. Smith assigned to Hyland whatever claim she had against Liberty Mutual. The district court concluded that Liberty Mutual’s failure either to defend or to seek a declaratory judgment of non-coverage violated Illinois law, making it liable for the entire judgment, although the policy provided only $25,000 per person in coverage. The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded for the entry of a judgment for $25,000 plus interest; damages for a breach of the duty to defend are measured by the consequences proximately caused by the breach. The maximum loss caused by this failure to defend is $25,000 View "Hyland v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Thorne has a property insurance policy with Member Select, which denied his claim for coverage after his Griffith, Indiana house burned down in 2008. Thorne chose not to rebuild the house and Member Select determined that either Thorne or his brother, who also lived in the house, intentionally set the fire. A jury awarded Thorne $87,000. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to find that Thorne was a resident of the house, as required for recovery under the policy and for the jury to determine damages. The court also rejected an argument that the district court misinterpreted the policy’s loss coverage provision in evaluating whether the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s damages award. View "Thorne v. MemberSelect Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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In this action challenging an insurance company’s doubling of Plaintiff’s insurance premium, the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that Plaintiff was entitled to relief on her contract claim and that the allegations Plaintiff raised were enough to permit her to go forward on her other theories. When Plaintiff was sixty-seven years old, she discovered that Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife) more than doubled her insurance premium. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit against MetLife on behalf of herself and a proposed class, alleging breach of contract, deceptive and unfair business practices, and common-law fraud. The district court granted MetLife’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, concluding that the insurance policy unambiguously permitted MetLife to raise Plaintiff’s premium. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the allegations raised in the complaint were enough to entitle Plaintiff to prevail on the liability phase of her contract claim and to go forward on her remaining claims. View "Newman v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Risk retention groups (RRGs) insure only their owners. The Products Liability Risk Retention Act encourages manufacturers to pool their resources into RRGs and explicitly preempts state laws that inhibit the formation of RRGs. The subsequent Liability Risk Retention Act (LRRA) preempts any state law that would “make unlawful, or regulate, directly or indirectly, the operation of" an RRG, 15 U.S.C. 3902(a) and provides that only an RRG’s chartering state may regulate its formation and operation. If RRGs are “subject to that state’s insurance regulatory laws, including adequate rules and regulations allowing for complete financial examination of all books and records” they may operate in any state. Nonchartering states may require RRGs “to … demonstrate[e] financial responsibility" to obtain a license or permit to undertake specified activities but states are prohibited from “discriminating” against an out-of-state RRG. Restoration is a Vermont-chartered RRG for businesses that restore buildings after disasters. In Wisconsin, these businesses are regulated as “dwelling contractors” and must obtain an annual certificate of financial responsibility from the state Trades Credentialing Unit (TCU), by proof of a “policy of general liability insurance issued by an insurer authorized to do business in [Wisconsin].” Since 2006, Wisconsin dwelling contractors could meet this requirement by securing insurance from Restoration. In 2015, TCU changed its position so that none of Restoration’s Wisconsin shareholder‐insureds could rely on Restoration to satisfy the state liability insurance requirements. The Seventh Circuit vacated a judgment rejecting Restoration’s challenge to the ruling and remanded for a determination of whether intervening amendments to the statute render the litigation moot. View "Restoration Risk Retention Group, Inc. v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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After the Garcias bought their Lake Station Property in 2004, it was used as an automobile repair shop and a day spa. It previously was used as a dry cleaning facility and contained six underground storage tanks: four were used for petroleum-based Stoddard solvent, one was used for gasoline, and the last for heating oil. In 1999, the dry cleaning company reported a leak from the Stoddard tanks to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). In 2000, a site investigation was conducted and five groundwater monitoring wells were installed. IDEM requested additional information and testing in 2001 and 2004. The Garcias claim they had no knowledge of the preexisting environmental contamination before insuring with Atlantic. A 2014 letter from Environmental Inc. brought the contamination to the Garcias’ attention. The Garcias hired Environmental to investigate and learned that Perchloroethylene solvent and heating oil still affected the property. Atlantic obtained a declaration that its Commercial General Liability Coverage (CGL) policies did not apply. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reading a “Claims in Process” exclusion to preclude coverage for losses or claims for damages arising out of property damage—known or unknown—that occurred or was in the process of occurring before the policy’s inception. View "Atlantic Casualty Insurance Co v. Garcia" on Justia Law