Articles Posted in Insurance 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

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West Side was working on ConAgra’s grain bin when it exploded. In 2014, the Seventh Circuit held that West Side was solely liable for the injuries that workers suffered in the explosion and was liable for $3 million in property damage to ConAgra’s bin. West Side had an $11 million excess insurance policy with RSUI. West Side sued, alleging that RSUI breached its duty to settle ConAgra’s property damage claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of RSUI. Under Illinois law, the damage-to-property clause excludes the claim from coverage. RSUI had no duty to settle a claim that the insurance policy does not cover. Holding otherwise would undermine the basic premise of the damage-to-property exclusion: that general liability policies are not intended to protect the insured from the normal risks of its business. The damage that West Side caused was one of the normal risks associated with its business of remedying hot grain bins before they explode. Even if West Side was only working on the grain when the explosion occurred, it is immaterial. The exclusion does not apply only to the precise area of the property being worked on if the work performed was poor. View "West Side Salvage, Inc. v. RSUI Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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In 2002, Toulon applied for Continental’s long-term care insurance policy. Continental provided a Long-Term Care Insurance Personal Worksheet to help Toulon determine whether the policy would work for her, given her financial circumstances. The Worksheet discussed Continental’s right to increase premiums and how such increases had previously been applied. Toulon did not fill out the Worksheet but signed and submitted it with her application. Toulon’s Policy stated that although Continental could not cancel the Policy if each premium was paid on time, Continental could change the premium rates. There was a rider, stating that premiums would not be increased during the first 10 years after the coverage date. In September 2013, Continental raised Toulon’s premiums by 76.5%. Toulon sued, on behalf of herself and a purported class. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, agreeing that Toulon failed to state claims for fraudulent misrepresentation because she did not identify a false statement or for fraudulent omission because Continental did not owe Toulon a duty to disclose. The court also properly dismissed Toulon’s claim under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act (ICFA) because she did not identify a deceptive practice, a material omission, or an unfair practice. The unjust enrichment claim failed because claims of fraud and statutory violation, upon which Toulon's unjust enrichment claim was based, were legally insufficient and an express contract governed the parties’ relationship. View "Toulon v. Continental Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's judgment in an action filed by an insurance company seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend the insured. The court held that it was the insured's responsibility to notify the insurance company that he had been in an accident that might lead to a claim; he failed to do so and his failure was inexcusable under Illinois law; and thus the insurance company had no duty to defend or indemnify the insured in the personal injury suit arising out of the accident. Accordingly, the insurance company was entitled to declaratory relief. View "State Auto Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Brumit Services, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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In 2009, Bancorp, which provides checking and savings accounts to individuals, purchased a bankers’ professional liability insurance policy from Federal. The policy stated: [Federal] shall pay, on behalf of an Insured, Loss on account of any Claim first made against such Insured during the Policy Period … for a Wrongful Act committed by an Insured or any person for whose acts the Insured is legally liable while performing Professional Services, including failure to perform Professional Services" but that Federal “shall not be liable for Loss on account of any Claim … based upon, arising from, or in consequence of any fees or charges” (Exclusion 3(n)). The 2010 Swift Complaint sought damages for Bancorp's "unfair and unconscionable assessment and collection of excessive overdraft fees.” Swift sought to represent a class of all U.S. BancorpSouth customers who "incurred an overdraft fee as a result of BancorpSouth’s practice of re-sequencing debit card transactions from highest to lowest.” In 2016, Bancorp agreed to pay $24 million to resolve all the claims, $8.4 million of which was for attorney’s fees, plus $500,000 in class administrative costs. Federal denied coverage. The Seventh Circuit agreed that Exclusion 3(n) excluded from coverage losses arising from fees and affirmed the dismissal of breach of contract claims and a bad faith claim. View "BancorpSouth Inc. v. Federal Insurance Co." on Justia 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