Articles Posted in Insurance Law

by
Southern-Owners filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment absolving it of the duty to indemnify or defend Easdon Rhodes, or the other defendants, in an underlying negligence suit. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, holding that the vehicle driven by Joshua Rhodes, one of Easdon Rhodes' members, did not qualify for coverage under the terms of the Endorsement, and, even if the vehicle had qualified, the existence of a separate insurance policy also covering the accident triggered the Endorsement's exclusion clause absolving Southern-Owners of its duties under the policy. View "Southern-Owners Insurance Co. v. Moore" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

by
This appeal arose out of the Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Scott Rothstein through his law firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler (RRA). Trustees of RRA filed suit alleging breach of contract and bad faith claims against insurance carriers that reached a settlement with Gibraltar and its executives after originally denying coverage. The Eleventh Circuit applied Florida law and exercised plenary review, holding that coverage was barred by a "professional services exclusion" found in each of the policies. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of the insurers' motion to dismiss. View "Stettin v. National Union Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Answering certified questions from the Eleventh Circuit, the Supreme Court of Georgia concluded that, while O.C.G.A. 9-11-67.1 sets forth certain terms and conditions that must be included in every written offer of settlement, nothing in Georgia law or the statute precludes parties from requiring "some additional act to effectuate acceptance;" O.C.G.A. 9-11-67.1 permits unilateral contracts whereby Pre-Suit Offers may demand acceptance in the form of performance before there was a binding enforceable settlement contract; and O.C.G.A. 9-11-67.1 does not preclude a Pre-Suit Offer from demanding timely payment as a condition of acceptance. In light of these answers, the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court correctly determined that O.C.G.A. 9-11-67.1 does not prohibit a party from requiring timely payment as a condition of acceptance of a settlement offer; the offer letter in this case unambiguously conditioned acceptance on timely payment; the insurers' issuance of two $50,000 checks with incomplete addresses, which never reached defendants or their attorney, did not satisfy this timely-payment condition; and the insurer failed to accept defendants' settlement offer, thus preventing the formation of a binding settlement agreement. Accordingly, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants. View "Grange Mutual Casualty Co. v. Woodard" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit reversed the grant of partial summary judgment on the binding effect of the verdict in the Circuit Court's breach-of-contract case and held that the parties must again litigate statutory damages. In this case, GEICO did not receive appellate review of the statutory-damages determination in the parties' underlying breach-of-contract case. Therefore, that damages determination did not bind the parties in this bad faith case. View "Bottini v. GEICO" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against U.S. Specialty for breach of contract, based on its denial of coverage of fraudulent transfer claims in an underlying suit. The district court entered summary judgment for U.S. Specialty and entered judgment against plaintiff. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that, in light of Florida law, plaintiff's fraudulent conveyance claims "arose from" wrongful acts that predate November 10, 2008, and thus fell within the scope of the Prior Acts Exclusion of the U.S. Specialty policy. Furthermore, the policy's terms were unambiguous and its coverage was not illusory. Therefore, U.S. Specialty did not breach the insurance contract. View "Zucker v. U.S. Specialty Insurance" on Justia Law

by
After Ulysses Anderson was involved in a car accident with an intoxicated driver who was driving a company vehicle with his employer's permission, a jury found the driver liable and awarded Anderson one million dollars. Great American, the employer's insurance company, filed suit for a declaration that the driver was not a permissive user – and thus not covered under the applicable insurance policies – because he broke internal company policies. The district court found that the driver was not an insured at the time of the accident, and that Great American owed no duty to cover the damages awarded at the trial of the underlying action. After the Georgia Supreme Court held that inquires into permissive use should extend only to whether a vehicle is used for an approved purpose in Strickland v. Georgia Cas. & Sur. Co., the Georgia Court of Appeals held that a company's internal rules can govern the scope of permissive use, and that violations thereof can negate an individual's status as an insured. In this case, the court found that the district court erred because it followed Barfield, and thus narrowed the scope of permissive use beyond what was permitted by Strickland. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Anderson v. Great American Alliance Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

by
After Darcia Dominguez died in an automobile accident with a Hillsborough County employee, her personal representative, Jorge Dominguez, filed a wrongful death suit against the County in state court, which is still pending. This instant action involves an insurance dispute between the County, Mr. Dominguez, and the County's excess carrier, Star Insurance. The court addressed an issue of first impression under Florida law - the interplay between the limited waiver of sovereign immunity set forth in Fla. Stat. 768.28(5) and the language of the self-insured retention limit (SIRL) contained in an endorsement to the excess liability policy issued to the County by Star. The district court granted Mr. Dominguez's motion for entry of judgment. The court affirmed the portions of the summary judgment order and final judgment which (a) declared that the County cannot unilaterally settle Mr. Dominguez's claim within policy limits without Star’s consent, and (b) explained that other issues related to the proposed settlement are unripe for resolution on the current record; vacated the portion of the summary judgment order and the final judgment which declares that the $350,000 SIRL can be satisfied without the passage of a special claims bill; concluded that, on this record, the district court's reliance on the frustration of purpose doctrine was misplaced, and the court has no basis to address the interplay between section 768.28(5) and the policy's SIRL because the proposed settlement between the County and Mr. Dominguez anticipates the need for, and passage of, a special claims bill; and affirmed the district court's denial of Star's belated motion for discovery. View "Hillsborough County v. Star Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

by
In the underlying lawsuit EmbroidMe was sued for alleged copyright infringement. EmbroidMe was insured by Travelers but failed to notify Travelers of the claim filed against it or to request that Travelers provide EmbroidMe with a defense on the suit. Travelers subsequently refused to reimburse EmbroidMe for legal expenses. EmbroidMe argued that because Travelers’ notification refusing to pay pre-tender legal expenses was made after the thirty-day statutory deadline had elapsed, it must now pay the pre-tender legal expenses. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that Travelers’ refusal to reimburse expenses of EmbroidMe to which it had not consented did not constitute a coverage defense, meaning that the statutory time period for an insurer to notify its insured of its defense to coverage did not apply. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Travelers. View "Embroidme.com, Inc. v. Travelers Property Casualty Company of America" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

by
Plaintiff filed a bad-faith diversity case against GEICO for failure to settle her claim when it could and should have done so. GEICO moved for partial summary judgment and sought a determination that the jury's $900,000 verdict in the underlying state uninsured motorist (UM) case was not binding as a measure of the damages in the federal bad-faith case. The district court denied GEICO's motion, but subsequently granted GEICO’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. At issue on appeal is whether judgment as a matter of law correctly was entered for GEICO, when plaintiff failed to establish permanent injury under Fla. Stat. 627.727(7) for noneconomic damages within the cure period. Under the clear language of Florida law regarding noneconomic damages in an insurance bad-faith case, the court concluded that the district judge was correct to conclude that the jury had no evidence from which it reasonably could have found GEICO had acted in bad faith. In this case, there was no evidence of permanency during the cure period, which is required under Florida law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Cadle v. GEICO General Ins. Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

by
In 2003, the Florida Legislature enacted Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes, establishing a notice and repair process to resolve construction disputes between property owners and contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, or design professionals. At issue is whether Chapter 558’s statutorily prescribed notice and repair process constitutes a “suit” under a commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy, so as to trigger the insurer’s duty to defend. The court concluded that it would be greatly benefited from the guidance of the Florida Supreme Court on the meaning of the policy language at issue here and its relationship to Chapter 558. Accordingly, the court certified the following question of law to that court: Is the notice and repair process set forth in Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes a “suit” within the meaning of the CGL policies issued by C&F to ACI? View "Altman Contractors, Inc. v. Crum & Forster Specialty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law