Articles Posted in Insurance Law

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From 2006-2012 Packerland deceived at least one of its customers about the protein content of its Whey Protein Concentrate. Land O’Lakes purchased Packerland’s protein concentrate for use in making foods for calves and other young animals. Buyers infer protein levels from measuring nitrogen: a seller can add another nitrogen-rich substance to produce higher scores. The Ratajczaks, who owned Packerland, started adding urea to its protein concentrate. in 2006. Land O’Lakes suspected that the concentrate was high in nonprotein nitrogen but could not learn why; the Ratajczaks made excuses that Land O’Lakes accepted. The Ratajczaks sold Packerland in 2012. The new owner kept them as employees; they kept adding urea until the buyer learned what the truth. The Ratajczaks lost their jobs and settled for about $10 million before the buyer filed a complaint. Land O’Lakes stopped buying Packerland’s product and asserted claims of breach of contract, fraud, and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Packerland’s insurers refused to defend or indemnify it or the Ratajczaks; the Ratajczaks’ personal insurer refused to indemnify them for their settlement with Packerland’s buyer. The district court dismissed Land O’Lakes’s suit and ruled in favor of the insurers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Land O’Lakes’ claim to treble damages under RICO and state-law and the Ratajczaks’ claims that Packerland’s insurers and their own insurers had to defend and indemnify them. View "Land O'Lakes, Inc. v. Ratajczak" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Roppo suffered serious injuries in an auto accident with Block, who was insured by Travelers. Travelers and the attorneys it retained for Block disclosed only the limits of Block’s automobile liability policy; they did not disclose the existence of his additional umbrella policy. Roppo eventually learned of the umbrella policy and then settled the case. She brought a proposed class action, challenging the company’s alleged practice of not disclosing the existence of umbrella policies. The case was removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d). The district court denied Roppo’s motion to remand to state court but allowed her to file a second amended complaint, which added Block’s defense attorneys as defendants. Her third amended complaint added a cause of action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c). The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal with prejudice the complaint’s 11 counts, finding that the district court had jurisdiction and that her complaint did not sufficiently state claims of fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, and negligence under Illinois law, or violations of the Illinois Insurance Code and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. View "Roppo v. Travelers Commercial Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Novae issued Cunningham an insurance policy. While insured by Novae, Cunningham entered into an agreement with AP to provide claims-handling services. In 2004 AP sued Cunningham in Texas state court, alleging misrepresentation and negligently-handled claims, resulting in unwarranted or underpriced policy renewals. While that litigation was ongoing, AP filed for bankruptcy. Novae then denied Cunningham’s request for coverage and remained largely uninvolved in the state litigation because the policy did not obligate it to defend. In 2012 Cunningham and AP’s bankruptcy trustee entered into a settlement, including a stipulation to the entry of a $5.12 million judgment against Cunningham; an assignment to AP of Cunningham’s purported right to recover against Novae; and a covenant not to execute on the judgment against Cunningham. The settlement stated that Illinois law would govern its interpretation. The Texas court entered judgment in accordance with the settlement. APs bankruptcy trustee then sued Novae in Illinois, asserting the assigned rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Novae. In Texas “assignments of choses in action that tend to increase and distort litigation” violate public policy and are invalid. The type of settlement at issue is collusive and distorts the adversarial process. View "Hendricks v. Novae Corporate Underwriting, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Haley and others filed a putative class action against Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork, claiming that windows purchased from Kolbe were defective and had allowed air and water to leak into (and damage) the plaintiffs’ homes. Kolbe tendered the defense of the defective-product claims to several insurance companies. Two companies—United States Fire Insurance and Fireman’s Fund—obtained permission to intervene in the case. United States Fire successfully moved for summary judgment, arguing that a 2016 decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court (Pharmacal) absolved the insurers of their duty to defend Kolbe in the underlying suit. The court sua sponte awarded judgment to Fireman’s Fund. The Seventh Circuit reversed the judgment that the insurance companies had no duty to defend. The “Pharmacal” analysis does not apply because the homeowners sought compensation for the repair or replacement of individual elements of a larger structure. This kind of particularized demand was not at issue in Pharmacal, which applied an "integrated structure" analysis. Whether the walls and other elements of the plaintiffs’ homes constitute Kolbe’s “product,” such that coverage for any damage to those materials is extinguished by a policy exclusion is ambiguous. View "Haley v. Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co." on Justia Law

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From 1977-1984 Banco reinsured 2% of the Insurer’s business. The Insurer stopped writing policies in 1985, went into receivership in 1986, and began liquidating in 1987. Through 1993 the liquidator complied with contractual provisions requiring balances to be calculated quarterly and statements sent. If the Insurer owed reinsurers net balances for the previous quarter, it paid them; if the reinsurers owed the Insurer, bills were sent. In 1993, the liquidator stopped sending checks or bills without explanation. In 2008, the liquidator notified Banco that Banco was owed $225,000 as the net on 1993-1999 business. For periods before 1993, the Insurer was owed $2.5 million. In 2010, Banco protested the bill as untimely. Pine bought the Insurer’s receivables and, in 2012, sued Banco. Litigation about procedural issues, arising from the fact that Banco is wholly owned by Uruguay, consumed several years. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment, holding that Pine’s claim is untimely. Each contract required scheduled netting of claims and payment of the balance. Claims against Banco accrued no later than 1993. The contracts specify application of Illinois law, which allowed 10 years (until 2003) to sue on contracts. A statute concerning insurance liquidation, 215 ILCS 5/206, does not permit a liquidator to wait until the end to net the firm’s debits and credits. View "Pine Top Receivables of Illinois, LLC v. Banco de Seguros del Estado" on Justia Law

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Streit set fire to the house where he lived with his parents, which was insured by Metropolitan. Under the Streits’ policy, the act of arson triggered a contractual exclusion of coverage. The Streits still submitted a claim, but Metropolitan refused to cover the fire damage.The Streits sued, claiming that the exclusion was inconsistent with the Illinois Standard Fire Policy. The Streits and Metropolitan then stipulated that the Streits were innocent of any wrongdoing related to the fire. The district court granted the Steits partial summary judgment, awarding $235,000. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Illinois Standard Fire Policy sets a minimum threshold for what fire-insurance policies must cover, and Metropolitan failed to provide that coverage. Under the Metropolitan policy, an intentional loss caused by any insured party suspends coverage for all insured parties—even those who were innocent of any wrongdoing. By contrast, the Standard Fire Policy suspends coverage if “the hazard is increased by any means within the control or knowledge of the insured.” View "Streit v. Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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A newly-constructed multi‐story condominium building suffered water damage, allegedly caused by the painting subcontractor, National, failing to apply an adequate coat of sealant to the exterior. In Illinois state court, the condominium association sued the general contractor, developer, and subcontractors. The defendants tendered the defense to Westfield, National’s insurer, Westfield filed a federal action seeking a declaration that it owed no duty to defend in the underlying action. The district court determined that the complaint triggered Westfield’s duty to defend. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment, rejecting an argument that failure to apply an adequate amount of paint cannot be considered an “accident” that would constitute a covered “occurrence” under the policy. Westfield also argued that because the damage is to the building itself, which was a new construction and not an existing structure, the association has not demonstrated that there was property damage that is subject to its policy. The policy defines “occurrence” to include the “continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same harmful conditions,” so the allegation that National acted negligently was sufficient under Illinois law to constitute an “occurrence.” National’s actions allegedly damaged parts of the building that were outside of the scope of its work, so the complaint alleges potentially covered property damage sufficient to invoke the duty to defend. View "Westfield Insurance Co. v. National Decorating Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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Drake was involved in a car accident with Burley, who offered to settle the matter with Drake’s automobile insurer, Horace Mann Insurance. The offer expired before Horace Mann accepted it, however, and Burley sued Drake and sent a letter to Drake’s lawyer suggesting that Horace Mann had handled the matter in bad faith. Believing that this letter constituted a “claim” against Horace Mann for extra-contractual damages that had accrued before the start date of Horace Mann’s own insurance policy with Lexington Insurance, Lexington sought a judicial declaration that it had no duty to indemnify Horace Mann under that policy. Horace Mann counterclaimed for breach of contract and requested (pursuant to an Illinois statute) additional damages for “vexatious and unreasonable” claims-handling. Horace Mann also filed a third-party complaint against its insurance broker, Aon, for negligence in reporting the extra-contractual “claim” to Lexington. The district court rejected Lexington’s suit on summary judgment and awarded judgment as a matter of law to Lexington and Aon on Horace Mann’s claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Lexington Insurance Co. v. Horace Mann Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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Lexington Insurance denied a claim by its insured, Double D Warehouse, for coverage of Double D’s liability to customers for contamination of warehoused products. One basis for denial was that Double D failed to document its warehousing transactions with warehouse receipts, storage agreements, or rate quotations, as required by the policies. PQ was a customer of Double D whose products were damaged while warehoused there. PQ settled its case against Double D by stepping into Double D’s shoes to try to collect on the policies. PQ argued that there were pragmatic reasons to excuse strict compliance with the policy’s terms. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Lexington. PQ accurately claimed that the documentation Double D actually had (bills of lading and an online tracking system) should serve much the same purpose as the documentation required by the policies (especially warehouse receipts), but commercially sophisticated parties agreed to unambiguous terms and conditions of insurance. Courts hold them to those terms. To do otherwise would disrupt the risk allocations that are part and parcel of any contract, but particularly a commercial liability insurance contract. PQ offered no persuasive reason to depart from the plain language of the policies. View "PQ Corp. v. Lexington Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Methodist and Saint Francis are the two largest hospitals in Peoria, Illinois. Saint Francis is considerably larger and more profitable. Methodist filed suit, charging Saint Francis with violating the Sherman Act by entering into exclusive contracts with insurance companies, covering more than half of all commercially-insured patients in the area. Methodist argued that it could not obtain a sufficiently high volume of patients to enable it to invest in improvements. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Saint Francis, noting that health insurers regard Saint Francis as a “must have” hospital, because it provides certain services that the other hospitals in the area do not provide, such as solid-organ transplants, neonatal intensive care, and a Level 1 trauma center. The contracts are a form of requirements contract; an insurance company may get better rates from a hospital by agreeing to an exclusive contract, which will drive more business to the hospital. The contracts are of fixed duration; when they terminate, the insurance companies are free to contract with other hospitals. Competition-for-the-contract is protected by the antitrust laws and is common. The court noted that none of the other four area hospitals had joined the case and the Department of Justice declined to file a case. View "Methodist Health Services Corp v. OSF Healthcare System" on Justia Law