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BT Policyholder Protection Blog
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30 May 2017 Check Your Policy When an Insurer Says a Self-Insured Retention Applies to Its Duty to Defend

  Has your insurer informed you that, notwithstanding its duty to defend you under a third-party liability policy, it won’t start defending until and unless you satisfy a self-insured retention of a specified amount?   Don’t necessarily believe it. In fact, California law is clear that absent an expressly written policy provision stating that no duty to defend arises until and unless an insured meets a self-insured retention, satisfaction of such retention is not a condition precedent to an insurer’s duty to defend.  Indeed, as California courts have said, “in the absence of clear policy language so providing, to require the exhaustion of a self-insured retention before an insurer will have a duty to defend would be contrary to the reasonable expectations of the insured…

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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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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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29 Dec 2016 Insurer Asks for a White Waiver as a Condition to Talking Settlement. Should You Do It?

  What is a “White waiver?”   In 1986, the California Supreme Court held that an insurance company’s low-ball offer of settlement to a policyholder made during litigation over an unpaid claim was admissible to prove the carrier’s bad faith in the same litigation, notwithstanding the settlement privilege. Insurance companies dislike this ruling because it prevents them from shrouding unreasonable settlement positions in the cloak of the settlement and litigation privileges. Insurance companies also, and not infrequently, require what is known among insurance lawyers in California as “a White waiver” before discussing settlement with an insured during a bad faith action.   Should the policyholder comply with this request? Does White really unwind the settlement and litigation privileges for bad faith settlement communications by an…

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30 Nov 2016 Sixth Circuit Opinion Serves as Reminder of Potential Pitfalls in Excess Coverage

  In previous posts, we’ve discussed the propensity of excess liability insurers to try to avoid coverage by challenging policyholder actions that occurred before the underlying defense costs or liability payments even reached the excess layer. In an opinion released earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit addressed yet another such challenge and determined that actions a policyholder took years before its underlying policy limits were exhausted precluded coverage under its excess policy. For policyholders, the case serves as a useful reminder of how excess carriers might raise terms and conditions purportedly within their policies late in the claims process.   Stryker Corporation v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa, Nos. 15-1657/1664 (6th Cir. Nov. 18, 2016) involved…

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13 Jul 2015 Texas Supreme Court to Decide Key Coverage Question on Policyholders’ Rights

In recognition of the opening of our Dallas, Texas, office, this week’s blog focuses on an important Texas Supreme Court decision anticipated by policyholders and insurers to define the manner in which policyholders may resolve disputes with claimants after an insurer wrongfully denies a defense and coverage.   Seger, et al. v. Yorkshire Ins. Co., Ltd. And Ocean Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. (Case No. 13-0673)  is currently pending before the Texas Supreme Court for decision.  Oral argument has been set for Sept. 15, 2015.  Amicus curiae briefs have been filed by the American Insurance Association, the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America, Lloyd’s America, Inc., the Texas Insurance Coverage League and the Texas Civil Justice League.  Both sides of this dispute have weighed in heavily on…

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06 Jul 2015 Scott Godes Quoted in Law360 Article, “4 Cyberinsurance Battlegrounds to Watch”

Scott Godes, partner and co-chair of the firm’s Data Security and Privacy Practice Group, was recently quoted in Law360’s article, “4 Cyberinsurance Battlegrounds to Watch.”   The article examines four key battlegrounds to watch when seeking coverage under cyberinsurance policies.  Scott was quoted multiple times about exclusions and limitations within cyberinsurance policies.  One of Scott’s quotes related to an insurance company’s recent denial of coverage based on alleged security requirements within a cyberinsurance policy.  Scott is quoted saying,   “The idea that an alleged failure to meet some security requirement would result in the exclusion of coverage should be seen as offensive. It puts a policyholder in a spot where, every time a claim is made, there is a trapdoor to coverage.”   Scott gave…

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12 May 2015 Will Your Tech E&O Insurance Cover Your Retention of Someone Else’s Electronic Data?

Court Offers Narrow Interpretation of Cyberinsurance. If you’ve been paying attention to the news or any of your social media channels, you’ve probably heard people talking about cyberinsurance and that your company needs it. You might even have been told that cyberinsurance is a panacea for all risks related to cybersecurity and data privacy. To date, there has been very little publicly available litigation about the meaning of cyberinsurance policies. One federal court changed that with a decision issued on May 11, 2015, in Travelers Property Casualty Co. of America v. Federal Recovery Services, Inc., No. 2:14-cv-170 TS, slip op. (D. Utah May 11, 2015). Unfortunately, the decision ruled against the policyholder and offered a narrow interpretation of the cyberinsurance policy involved in the dispute….

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01 May 2015 Policyholder Rights Under Seige in Illinois

A bill pending in the Illinois Senate threatens to undermine if not overturn two fundamental rights of policyholders under a policy with the duty to defend: (1) the right to a complete defense of an entire claim insured if any allegation is actually or potentially covered and (2) the right to independent counsel if there is a conflict of interest between the insurance company that pays for the defense and the policyholder being defended. Both of these rights have been established for decades by courts in Illinois and virtually every other state. See, e.g., Maryland Casualty Co. v. Peppers, 64 Ill.2d 187, 197-98, 355 N.E. 2d 24 (Ill. 1976). Illinois Senate Bill 1296 threatens to turn these bedrock principles into quicksand.   First, the bill…

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