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
Today, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously rejected a liability insurer’s attempt to avoid paying on a judgment entered against its insured in FountainCourt Homeowners’ Ass’n v. FountainCourt Dev., LLC. The Court held that an insurer cannot re-litigate an underlying lawsuit as part of an insurance-coverage lawsuit, and that a claimant must show only that some property damage occurred during the insurer’s policy period. In so holding, the Court eliminated a series of arguments frequently raised by Oregon liability insurers. Continue Reading Oregon Supreme Court forecloses insurers from taking a second bite at the apple
Yesterday the Supreme Court of Oregon overruled Stubblefield v. St. Paul Fire & Marine (1973) and paved the way for a more commonsense approach to negotiating stipulated judgments. Stipulated judgments have been a well-worn, though somewhat perilous, mechanism for insureds to resolve liability claims against them when their insurers defend in bad faith. In doing so, however, the parties to the stipulated judgment were tasked with navigating needlessly technical steps along the way. In Brownstone Homes Condo. Ass’n. v. Capital Specialty Ins. Co., the court removed one of the insurer’s “gotcha” defenses to an otherwise valid stipulated judgment. Continue Reading Oregon Supreme Court eases the path to hold insurers accountable for bad-faith practices
The Oregon Supreme Court recently addressed an issue that has been the source of significant uncertainty in construction disputes: the extent to which construction agreements can require subcontractors to indemnify general contractors for damages caused by the negligence of others. This issue keenly interests coverage counsel because of the close connection between these contractual-indemnity provisions and the equally common requirement that subcontractors include the general contractor as an “additional insured” under their liability policies. Continue Reading Oregon Supreme Court enforces indemnity provisions, but only to a point
With the sanctity of any time-honored tradition, insurers resist discovery of their claim file with the ritualistic incantation that it is protected from discovery because it was prepared in anticipation of litigation, and therefore qualifies as work product. To support this argument, oftentimes insurers outsource the adjustment of the claim (a normal business activity) to outside attorneys, and then refuse to provide the attorney’s file, or communications with the insurer and the attorney, on the basis that those documents are protected by the attorney-client privilege. Courts across the county have been increasingly dismissive of these arguments, holding that an insurer cannot cloak its claim file with privilege simply by paying a lawyer to do what is otherwise an everyday claim handling activity for the insurer. Oregon finally has a chance to weigh in on this issue and level the playing field for insureds.
In Liberty Surplus Insurance v. Seabold Construction, the Supreme Court of Oregon has the opportunity to decide whether an insurer can conceal its claim handling by outsourcing it to lawyers. Continue Reading Insurers really don’t want you to know what’s in their files.