Unenforceable “Policy Interpretation” Provision

Frank M. Kaplan

There are certain immutable truths. For example, we know that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, that the earth is not flat, that coverage grants in an insurance policy are to be interpreted broadly consistent with the insured’s reasonable expectations, and that policy exclusions are to be interpreted narrowly. The latter two, which together with others, are long-held canons of insurance policy interpretation protecting insureds that appear in thousands of court decisions and are not subject to reasonable dispute by lawyers on either side of the insurance coverage bar.

So what happens when an insurer attempts to alter these and other fundamental, bedrock principles of policy interpretation by unilaterally altering them in a form, non-manuscript insurance policy? Must a court abandon decades of settled jurisprudence in favor of policy language that seeks just that result? The answer should be “no.” Continue reading “Unenforceable “Policy Interpretation” Provision”

Appellate Division Finds Coverage for EPA Claim through Company’s Historic Mergers and Acquisitions, Even Though the Bill of Sale Did Not Specifically Reference the Transfer of Insurance Rights

Kevin R. Doherty

Earlier this month, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld a decision allowing Cooper Industries LLC (“Cooper”) access to insurance policies received through a series of mergers and acquisitions (“M&As”), even though the transfer of assets language in the relevant bill of sale did not specifically reference the transfer of insurance rights. Cooper was thus afforded liability coverage for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) action seeking substantial cleanup costs.

Cooper’s predecessor, McGraw-Edison Co. (“McGraw”), previously obtained a variety of liability insurance policies from various insurers throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. At issue in the case was whether McGraw’s right to these policies was properly transferred, through a series of corporate transactions, such that Cooper could now access them for the EPA claim. The lower court found the relevant bill of sale language to be ambiguous and relied on deposition testimony from employees to find, among other things, that all assets and liabilities were meant to be transferred, including insurance rights. Insurers appealed. Continue reading “Appellate Division Finds Coverage for EPA Claim through Company’s Historic Mergers and Acquisitions, Even Though the Bill of Sale Did Not Specifically Reference the Transfer of Insurance Rights”

The Ninth Circuit Reconfirms that under California Law an Insurer Bears a Heavy Burden to Demonstrate an Exclusion Eviscerates Its Defense Duty

Julia K. Holt

Under California law, the insurer has the heavy burden of establishing there is no potential for coverage of an underlying claim. With respect to the duty to defend, “[t]o prevail, the insured must prove the existence of a potential for coverage, while the insurer must establish the absence of any such potential. In other words, the insured need only show that the underlying claim may fall within policy coverage; the insurer must prove it cannot.” Montrose Chem. Corp. v. Superior Court, 6 Cal. 4th 287, 300 (1993). The Ninth Circuit reconfirmed this fundamental principle earlier this year in Hanover Insurance Co. v. Paul M. Zagaris, Inc., No. 17-15477, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 5429 (9th Cir. March 2, 2018), when it upheld the district court’s decision that the insurer failed to establish that an exclusion for deceptive business practices applied to the entire proposed class action for an alleged kickback scheme. Continue reading “The Ninth Circuit Reconfirms that under California Law an Insurer Bears a Heavy Burden to Demonstrate an Exclusion Eviscerates Its Defense Duty”

CGL Coverage for Cyber Data Breaches: Court Finds No Coverage unless the Policyholder Itself Publishes the Private Information

Deborah Greenspan

As cybersecurity incidents continue to mount and as the issue of data security becomes increasingly important and a source of potential liability, companies should consider whether their standard commercial general liability (“CGL”) policies provide adequate coverage. The case law, although limited, suggests that policyholders might face an uphill battle in obtaining coverage.

In Innovak International, Inc. v. The Hanover Insurance Company, No. 8:16-cv-2453-MSS-JSS, — F. Supp. 3d —, 2017 WL 5632718 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 17, 2017), the Court found that the insurer was not required to provide a defense to the policyholder because the underlying complaint did not allege that the policyholder published the private data. Innovak develops and markets accounting and payroll software and maintains a database accessible via Internet portals. The complaint alleged that as a result of Innovak’s negligence, hackers were able to access class members’ personal information, including social security numbers, addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers, employment information, and spousal information. The complaint included claims for negligence, breach of implied contract, gross negligence, unjust enrichment, and fraudulent suppression. The claimants alleged that they suffered psychic injuries including stress, nuisance, loss of sleep, worry, and the annoyance of dealing with the data breach. Continue reading “CGL Coverage for Cyber Data Breaches: Court Finds No Coverage unless the Policyholder Itself Publishes the Private Information”

Asbestos Coverage: A Never Ending Story

John E. Heintz

In April 1977, a few weeks before I began practicing law, senior claims executives of eighteen liability insurance companies met to discuss the insurance implications of asbestos bodily injury claims. A majority of those at the meeting concluded:

“. . . that coverage existed for each carrier throughout the period of time the asbestosis condition developed, i.e. from the first exposure through the discovery and diagnosis. The majority also contended that each carrier on risk during any part of that period could be fully responsible for the cost of defense and loss.” Continue reading “Asbestos Coverage: A Never Ending Story”

Insurance Can Reduce the Financial Repercussions to Your Supply Chain of Superstorms, Wildfires, Climate Change, and Global Economic Disruptions

Welcome to “California Corner,” dedicated to posts authored by our new team of Insurance Recovery attorneys based in our Los Angeles office. Partner Linda Kornfeld, who serves as vice chair of the Insurance Recovery group, Partner David Thomas and Of Counsel Julia Holt focus on national and California-specific issues, including property and weather-related business interruption issues, data breach and privacy issues, and professional liability, asbestos, and environmental liabilities. Their clients include telecommunications companies, universities, real estate developers, manufacturers, and nonprofit organizations around the country. We hope you find their perspectives informative and insightful!

Linda Kornfeld, David Thomas, and Julia Holt

Many companies in today’s global economy are dependent upon the efficient and disruption-free operation of their multinational supply chains. Unfortunately, such supply chains are vulnerable to numerous physical and non-physical elements, including natural disasters, information technology failures, cyberattacks, pandemics, climate change, and civil and political unrest. These vulnerabilities can, and often do, result in the disruption of business operations resulting in significant financial losses. Continue reading “Insurance Can Reduce the Financial Repercussions to Your Supply Chain of Superstorms, Wildfires, Climate Change, and Global Economic Disruptions”

Insurance Coverage for Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims

Jared Zola and James R. Murray

The last several weeks have brought seemingly unending news detailing allegations of sexual impropriety against politicians, celebrities, the news media, and other public figures. As a wave of victims march forward and social movements such as the #MeToo silence breakers grow, there are no signs that sexual harassment claims will subside. There is little doubt that companies and individuals across all industries have and will continue to see an increasing share of similar charges. As companies continue to address this crisis and attempt to protect their brand reputation from tarnishing, they may find some economic relief from their Employment Practices Liability Insurance (“EPLI”) coverage. Continue reading “Insurance Coverage for Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims”