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BT Policyholder Protection Blog
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27 Mar 2017 Bad Faith Isn’t the Only Remedy Court Sanctions Insurance Company for Factually Incorrect Declaratory Judgment Complaint

  State laws vary considerably in the standards and remedies for bad faith by an insurance company and also on whether a policyholder can recover attorneys’ fees for an insurance coverage dispute in the absence of bad faith. A recent Illinois case is a reminder that court sanctions can be another remedy for an insurer’s misconduct in coverage litigation.   In American Access Cas. Co. v. Alcauter, 2017 IL App (1st) 160775, the insurance company filed a declaratory judgment complaint against its policyholder, Alcauter, seeking to avoid coverage for a $10,000 judgment in an auto accident case because Alcauter breached his duty of cooperation by failing to attend the hearing in the accident case against him. In Illinois, the underlying plaintiff is often considered a…

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06 Mar 2017 Overcoming That Sinking Feeling Beating Earth Movement Exclusions in CGL Policies

  Co-authored by John Corbett and Andy Detherage.   The recent rainstorms in California rightly have been hailed as the end of a lengthy drought.  The inches of rain which fell in the span of a week have filled reservoirs and raised the water table in the parched ground.  Such a large volume of water, however, increases the danger of landslides in California’s notoriously unconsolidated hillsides and bluffs, and with it, the possibility of disputes over whether particular ground movement claims are covered by their liability policies.   Let’s look at a hypothetical example.  XYZ Construction is laying pipes under an existing street at the top of a bluff.  In the course of digging trenches to hold the pipes, one of XYZ’s diggers accidentally breaks…

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08 Feb 2017 Coverage for Commotion: Insurance for Businesses Affected By Rioting and Vandalism

  Businesses can endure substantial property damage and, perhaps more importantly, lost revenue from civil disruptions caused by rioting and vandalism. Fortunately, business owners have a multitude of coverage options for these disruptions and should firmly resist an insurer’s attempt to deny or limit coverage.   Assume you own the fictional pub “Paddy’s Pub” on Sunny Lane in South Philadelphia. One evening, South Philadelphia residents peacefully march down Sunny Lane in protest of the latest government budgeting decision. At some point, rioting and vandalism ensue and a few residents begin vandalizing businesses on Sunny Lane—including Paddy’s Pub. To contain the situation, the police department shuts down Sunny Lane for the remainder of the day. What coverage may be triggered?   Commercial Property Coverage: Upon first…

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07 Feb 2017 California Supreme Court Denies Insurance Industry’s Attempt to Deregulate Insurance in California

  On January 23, in Association of California Insurance Companies v. Dave Jones, the California Supreme Court rejected carriers’ attempt to deregulate the insurance industry in the state by stripping from the insurance commissioner much of the broad power to supervise insurer conduct. This case is a big win for policyholders.   The issue before the court was whether the California Department of Insurance can regulate the representations insurers make to their customers about the cost to replace a policyholder’s home. In 2010, the insurance commissioner promulgated a regulation — C.C.R. sec. 2695.183 — governing what an insurance underwriter must do in setting the replacement cost of a home when selling homeowners coverage. This was expressed as a series of tasks the carrier must perform…

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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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27 Jan 2017 Franchisors: Don’t Forget About Insurance for Joint Employer Liability Claims

  By Matthew B. Gruenberg and Matthew B. O’Hanlon   Separate and apart from creating a brand and an offering that consumers enjoy, franchisors face everyday issues such as complex schemes that restrict the terms and conditions under which they may sell franchises and conduct business.  In addition, under expanding concepts of joint employer liability, issues exist as to whether franchisors may potentially be sued for, among other things, employment-related claims brought by employees of franchisees.   To protect against such claims, a best practice for franchisors is to take reasonable precautions by not exerting authority or control over the franchisee’s employment practices. These precautions include taking care not to retain or assume a general right of control over factors such as hiring, direction, supervision,…

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28 Nov 2016 Exercise Your Bargaining Power at Renewal Time

  Co-authored by Scott Godes and John Fischer.   As the end of the year approaches, many policyholders are facing Jan. 1 renewals of their insurance programs or are looking at replacing part or all of their programs with new policies or carriers. Some are considering augmenting their insurance programs with specialty coverages pertinent to their particular needs. This is a friendly reminder to those whose renewals are coming up (and an advance reminder to those with renewal dates throughout the year) that although insurance policies frequently are made up of boilerplate language on pre-printed forms, some carriers will amend their coverages with endorsements that can enhance the coverages offered. Also, not all carriers’ standard forms are the same.   The opportunity to obtain coverage enhancements is…

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17 Aug 2016 Upcoming Webinar on Aug. 23: What Keeps You Up At Night?

  It can be invaluable to implement a strong compliance program and back it up with a well-considered insurance program. Barnes & Thornburg’s compliance, insurance and white collar attorneys are hosting a complimentary webinar on Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 3 p.m. (Eastern) that will introduce tools to evaluate and manage emerging risks – the ones that keep you up at night and how they can be covered by insurance.   Specifically, our insurance recovery attorneys will discuss insurance coverage that may be available for government investigation and litigation defense under a variety of policies, including directors and officers (D&O), professional errors and omissions (E&O), cybercrime, and commercial general liability policies. Reviewing your coverage may result in finding “hidden treasure” that might relieve your company – and individual…

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08 Aug 2016 Insurance, Indemnification, and Limitation of Liability Provisions in Business Contracts

  If your job includes reviewing, drafting or negotiating contracts, you’ve probably seen these provisions. Are they boilerplate that you spend little time on? Do you fully understand exactly what they do? Do you negotiate or revise them?   Allocation of Risk   Fundamentally, the purpose of insurance, indemnification, and limitation clauses is to allocate risks. In general, insurance transfers risk from the contracting parties to a third party—an insurance company. Indemnification usually transfers risk between the parties to the contract. Limitation of liability prevents or limits the transfer of risk between the parties.   With those basic concepts in mind, think about the risks that arise out or relate to the contract. Take the time to imagine nightmare scenarios as well as other events…

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25 Mar 2016 Are You Prepared for a Natural Disaster? Five Tips for Preparing for a Natural Disaster

  Spring is here, which means natural disaster season is here as well. While spring brings a welcome change in the weather in many areas of the country, it often also brings floods, tornados, hurricanes and other disasters that can cause substantial property damage and business disruption. Now is a good time for policyholders to make sure they are as prepared as they can be in the event of an unexpected property loss. Addressing a few basic but sometimes overlooked issues before being thrust into the chaotic aftermath of a natural disaster can go a long way toward making the insurance recovery process more efficient.   Review and understand your policies. Do you know where to find your company’s property insurance policies when you really need…

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