Businesses buy liability insurance to protect themselves from lawsuits brought by people injured by the business’s employees. But after the injury, and after the plaintiff has sued, the main concern is often between the injured plaintiff and the insurer for the business that doesn’t want to pay.

In this context, the defendant often settles the lawsuit and then gets out of the way to let the plaintiff get what it can from the insurer, which is often the only party with enough money to pay a judgment. But structuring this resolution must be undertaken with great care in recognizing legal niceties that, missing a crossed “t” or dotted “i” in the process, can give the insurer a free get-out-of-jail card, as a recent case arising out of a tragic accident in Boston shows. Continue Reading Pitfalls abound in settling around an insurer acting in bad faith

The Washington Court of Appeals recently issued an unpublished opinion that should serve as a warning to policyholders pursuing coverage in Washington. On its surface, The Port of Longview v. Arrowood Indemnity Co. (Aug. 2, 2016) was a significant win for the insured. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s ruling that the insured’s primary insurers had a duty to defend and indemnify, and its excess carriers had a duty to indemnify, the Port against all claims arising from two contaminated sites. In affirming the trial court’s declaratory judgment rulings, the Court of Appeals rejected the insurers’ arguments that they had been prejudiced by the insured’s late notice, that the contamination at issue was “expected or intended” by the insured, and that the policies’ “qualified pollution exclusions” precluded coverage. Continue Reading In Washington, late notice may not preclude coverage, but it could cost you your fee claim

Last week, a federal district court in Florida reaffirmed the black-letter law in Florida that claims against a general contractor for damage to the completed project resulting from the defective work of a subcontractor constitutes “property damage” under a Commercial General Liability, or “CGL,” policy. The order also clarifies how “other insurance” clauses are construed when insurers offer competing arguments about who has to pay first — a common dispute in multiparty, multipolicy cases.

In Pavarini Construction Co. v. ACE American Ins. Co. (Feb. 25, 2015), Pavarini, the insured, was the general contractor for a 63-floor, mixed-use condominium tower. As is customary in projects of this size, Pavarini hired several subcontractors to perform the work. The steel subcontractor’s deficient work at issue in this case involved missing and misplaced reinforcing steel in the concrete masonry unit. This deficient work caused excess movement in the building, resulting in damage to exterior stucco, water intrusion in the penthouse enclosure, and cracking in the concrete columns, beams, and shear walls. Continue Reading Federal Court in Florida Refuses to Let Excess Insurer Escape $23M Claim Where Deficient Work Caused Damage to Project Itself

Judge King of the federal district court in Oregon recently ruled on two insurers’ dueling arguments about counting the number of “occurrences” based on the same set of facts, a dispute that can have profound consequences for both insurers and their insureds.

Chartis Specialty Ins. Co. v. Am. Contractors Ins. Co. (Aug. 12, 2014) arose from a dispute between two liability insurers who had already paid to settle a construction-defect lawsuit. The first insurer, ACIG, had written a primary-layer liability policy with limits of $2 million per occurrence, and a $4 million aggregate (that is, for a total of two or more occurrences). The second insurer, Chartis, had written an umbrella policy with a “Retained Limit” that triggered coverage beginning at $2 million per occurrence, or $4 million aggregate. Continue Reading Counting “Occurrences” Can Cut Both Ways, Even Between Insurers