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BT Policyholder Protection Blog
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30 Jan 2017 Recent Trial Win Raises Interesting Issues on Relationship Between Insurance Agent and Policyholder

Disclaimer: Barnes & Thornburg represented the policyholder in this case and the policyholder has provided their consent for this case summary. NOTE THAT ANY CASE DECISIONS, COURT OPINIONS, RULINGS, AND/OR RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE.   CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE UNDERTAKEN BY THE LAWYER OR THE LAW FIRM.   Can an insurance agent’s statement and representations bind an insurance company? A recent Minnesota court said, “yes.”   In January 2015, Barnes & Thornburg client Prospect Foundry, LLC, was sued in Hennepin County District Court for breach of contract by its workers’ compensation insurer, Western National Mutual Insurance Company. Western National sought $245,000 in unpaid premiums. Prospect disputed the amount…

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02 Jun 2016 When is “Wrongful” Eviction Intentional and Therefore Not Covered?

On May 23, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued an unpublished decision addressing what actions by a rental home owner would be considered an “occurrence” triggering coverage and whether the actions would constitute an intentional act to exclude coverage.   In State Farm Fire & Cas, Co. v. Otten, No. A15-1574, 2016 WL 2946110 (Minn. Ct. App. May 23, 2016), the court focused on whether an insurance policy covered or excluded the personal injury resulting from the rental home owners’ wrongful eviction of their tenant. The rental home was insured by State Farm’s Rental Dwelling Policy. This policy allowed coverage for personal injury resulting from an “occurrence,” which specifically included wrongful evictions, but excluded coverage for personal injury resulting from intentional acts. The Minnesota Supreme…

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29 Mar 2016 Recent Presentations Demonstrate Importance of Choice of Law

  The law that applies to an insurance contract can be very important. I recently presented on this important fact during a Feb. 17 Minnesota CLE webinar entitled, “Insurance Coverage for Punitive Damages in Minnesota,” and on Feb. 20 at the ABA Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee’s mid-year meeting on “Insurance Transfer in Asset Deals/Stock Deals.” While on their face these two presentations appear to be very different, what struck me was the overriding fact that the outcome of a coverage dispute involving either issue would depend heavily on what state’s law applied.   When dealing with coverage for punitive damages, the states are split on whether, as a matter of public policy, a policyholder should be allowed to obtain coverage for punitive damages awards. The…

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26 Jun 2015 CONSENT JUDGMENTS: WHEN AN INSURER FAILS TO DEFEND

Your business has been sued for negligence, but the complaint also references allegedly intentional acts. The potential liability for the company could be catastrophic. This is exactly why your company has liability insurance and you tender it to the insurance carrier. Rather than accept the defense, the carrier denies, pointing to the intentional acts exclusion in the policy. The business spends months fighting the claims, but is unsuccessful in getting the claims dismissed, and doesn’t have the financial resources to fight a second-front battle with its insurance carrier. It is now the eve of trial and you are concerned that there is a likelihood the jury could find the company liable. Furthermore, the company does not have sufficient funds to pay a settlement, much less…

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15 Apr 2015 Minnesota Courts Address Statutory Procedures for Claims Against Insurance Companies – Part 1 of 2

Last week, the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued opinions concerning separate statutory requirements for maintaining actions against insurance companies. In the first, the Court of Appeals addressed whether a defendant’s liability insurer could be added as a garnishee to the underlying lawsuit under Minnesota’s garnishment statute. In the second, the Supreme Court clarified when service of process on a nonresident insurer under Minnesota’s alternative service of process statute is deemed to be “made” for purposes of applying a limitations period. For the sake of brevity, we’re discussing the opinions separately in a two-part blog post.   Michaels v. First USA Title, LLC, No. A14-0931, 2015 WL 1514018 (Minn. App. April 6, 2015) A policyholder defendant’s failure to provide timely notice…

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05 Jan 2015 Color Match Arrives (Again) in Minnesota

Last month, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an opinion addressing an insurer’s obligation to match replacement materials after homes suffered storm damage. The opinion in Cedar Bluff Townhome Condominium Association, Inc. v. American Family Mutual Insurance Company, –N.W.2d–, No. A13-0124, 2014 WL 7156914 (Minn. Dec. 17, 2014) stemmed from a hail storm in October 2011 that damaged buildings in the Cedar Bluff townhome neighborhood.   Cedar Buff sought coverage for complete replacement of the buildings’ siding. However, American Family (AmFam) took the position that the policy only required replacement of the individual panels actually damaged by the storm, even though the replacement panels would be slightly darker or lighter than the original panels. The district court granted summary judgment to AmFam, finding that the policy…

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07 Nov 2014 Chris Yetka Publishes Article on Insurance Coverage for Punitive Damages in “The Brief”

If your company is concerned about whether punitive damages are insurable, or whether your “punitive wrap” insurance policy will cover a claim for punitive damages, Chris Yetka, Barnes & Thornburg partner, just examined these questions in a bar journal article. A Minnesota company policyholder, with manufacturing facilities in Iowa, is sued in Iowa for injuries caused in that state. The claim includes punitive damages, which are awarded. The company has insurance coverage for punitive damages, “to the fullest extent allowed by law.” Citing Minnesota law (where as a matter of public policy punitive damages cannot be covered by insurance where they are assessed directly against the wrongdoer), the insurance carrier denies coverage. Iowa law, however, allows coverage for punitive damages. Because most of the company’s…

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05 Sep 2014 Reference Handbook on the Commercial General Liability Policy

  The second edition of the Reference Handbook on the Commercial General Liability Policy, published by the Tort and Insurance Practice Section of the ABA, has just been released. The book provides concise discussions of the most salient points of the commercial general liability policy, including: who is an insured, trigger, occurrence, damages, exclusions, bad faith and the Bermuda and London markets. Chapter 13, on Allocation, is authored by Barnes & Thornburg insurance recovery partner, Christopher Yetka. More information can be found here. Chris YetkaChristopher H. Yetka is a partner in Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Minneapolis, Minn. office and a member of the firm’s Litigation Department. Mr. Yetka concentrates his practice primarily on commercial litigation matters, particularly involving insurance recovery disputes. He enforces his clients’…

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27 Jun 2014 Minnesota’s Bad Faith and Insurance Interest Statutes Instrumental in Recovery for Barnes’ Client

  In February of this year, Christopher Yetka and Barnes & Thornburg obtained a $2,200,000 jury verdict against Delos Insurance Company in a hail and wind loss coverage claim on behalf of The Landings Homeowners Association, Inc.  The Landings is a nineteen building, fifty-eight unit, townhome complex between Target Field and the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. The Landings purchased a replacement cost property policy from Delos that was in effect at the time a storm hit on May 10, 2011.  The storm was so severe that it halted the Twins game that was playing just a few blocks away, and generated hail up to two inches in diameter. The Landing’s expert testified that all of the roofs at the Landings were so heavily damaged…

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07 May 2014 Chris Yetka presents “Cyber Risk: The Cost of a Breach”

On May 7, 2014, Christopher Yetka from Barnes & Thornburg’s Policyholder Insurance Recovery Group presented a breakfast seminar with Dan Hanson from Marsh & McLennan Agency entitled “Cyber Risk: The Cost of a Breach.”   The presentation included a discussion of how data losses can occur, and the nature of their discovery.  Tips on how to immediately respond to a data discovery were analyzed, along with requirements under the various state and federal laws to notify those whose data has been compromised.  The short and long-term consequences of a breach, including lost income, damage to reputation, regulatory fines, and third and first party losses were presented.  Finally, Chris and Dan discussed a number of ways to minimize risk, including not only insurance options and best…

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