For the second time in two months, a federal court in Washington state has rejected an insurer’s attempt to avoid the consequences of its wrongful failure to defend its insured by effectively changing its mind and later—in this case much later—offering a defense. Continue Reading In Washington, insurers can’t “unring the bell” after wrongful denial of coverage
The Washington Court of Appeals recently held that the obligation to act in “good faith” applies to the adjuster working for an insurer, not just the insurer that employed the adjuster. This rule not only permits insureds to go directly after the person at the insurance company responsible for denying a claim in bad faith, but it may also allow insureds to keep state-law claims filed in state court right where they were filed. Continue Reading Adjusters may be personally liable under Washington law
A recent decision from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington again demonstrates the decidedly pro-policyholder nature of insurance-coverage law in the state of Washington. Like so many coverage cases, 2FL Enterprises, LLC v. Houston Specialty Insurance Co., arose from underlying construction-defect litigation. Continue Reading In Washington, an Insurer Cannot Refuse to Defend, Change Its Mind, and Still Expect to Control the Defense or Avoid Bad Faith
Under typical Commercial General Liability policies, which are triggered by an “occurrence” during the policy period, an insured can safely wait until being served with a complaint to notify the insurer about the litigation. But policies written on a “claims made” basis, such as many Errors and Omissions policies or Employment Practices Liability policies, raise the specter of forfeiting any coverage at all for not notifying the insurer of a “claim” long before the insured knew that it would have to lawyer up and defend against a lawsuit.
Scottsdale Indemnity Co. v. Convercent, Inc., a recent decision from the federal court in Colorado, demonstrates this risk and the hole that an insured can inadvertently dig for itself. Continue Reading Traps await the unwary in claims-made insurance policies
Keeping your fingers crossed, with perhaps a little truculence thrown in for good measure, should not guide an insured’s answers in filling out an insurance application. Rather, as the decision in a recent case from federal district court in Florida shows, insureds filling out renewal applications should view the world through a pessimistic eye. Continue Reading Forget the rose-colored glasses when filling out insurance applications
Yesterday, the Oregon Court of Appeals dealt a hefty blow to insurance companies seeking to exclude coverage for property damage to multi-family dwellings and for awards of attorney fees. In Hunters Ridge Condominium Ass’n v. Sherwood Crossing, LLC, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that an insurance company’s “Multi-Unit New Residential Construction” exclusion was unclear as to whether it excluded coverage for property damage to both residential-only and mixed-use condominiums. Given there were two plausible ways to read the exclusion, the Oregon Court of Appeals held the exclusion must be construed against the insurance company. Continue Reading Not so fast insurance company, that judgment against your insured may in fact be covered
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
You’re sued. You tender the defense of the lawsuit to your insurer, but it refuses to defend you. You settle the case and then file a lawsuit against your insurer for what it should have paid to defend you while sitting out of the fight. You win in the trial court, in the Court of Appeals, and the Oregon Supreme Court. Under Oregon law, you get your attorney fees for this fight with the insurer about attorney fees, right?
Not if, despite all appearances, you were not the insured, but really a “self insurer” all this time, fighting with your insurer about paying for a fair share of your own defense costs. That’s what one Oregon insurer recently argued, and what the Oregon Court of Appeals soundly rejected in a decision issued today. Continue Reading Oregon Court of Appeals rejects insurer’s attempt to cast its own insured as just another insurer
Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court made it just a little easier for an insured to recover the attorney fees that it has been forced to spend in compelling an insurer to pay up. In Long v. Farmers Ins. Co. of Oregon, the Supreme Court resolved an old ambiguity about what “recovery” means under the fee-shifting rule in Oregon’s insurance statutes. This decision should put to rest at least one opportunity for gamesmanship by insurers in Oregon. Continue Reading A “recovery” against insurers in Oregon does not require a money judgment
Back in August 2015, I wrote this post about the Oregon Court of Appeals opinion in West Hills Development Co. v. Chartis Claims, Inc., where the court confirmed that Oregon’s broad duty to defend extended to parties claiming rights as “additional insureds.” Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed that decision, broadly holding that “regardless of ambiguity or lack of clarity, the duty to defend is triggered if the complaint’s allegations, reasonable interpreted, could result in the insured being held liable for damages covered by the policy.” Continue Reading Oregon Supreme Court reaffirms broad nature of the duty to defend, even in the face of ambiguous or unclear allegations