California Corner: California’s Bar on Coverage for Willful Acts under Insurance Code Section 533—Don’t Assume It Applies

David A. Thomas and Linda Kornfeld

Like a number of states, California prohibits insurers from indemnifying policyholders for liability based on intentional conduct that was committed with the intent to cause harm, although it does not bar a defense against such claims. California’s public policy is codified in Insurance Code Section 533, which provides: “An insurer is not liable for a loss caused by the wilful act of the insured; but he is not exonerated by the negligence of the insured, or of the insured’s agents or others.”

A significant body of law has elucidated the rules for application of Section 533. Reckless or grossly negligent conduct generally does not trigger application of the statute.[1] Nor, with very limited exceptions, does the mere fact that a policyholder intended the act that caused the harm bring the conduct within Section 533.[2] Instead, the policyholder must have intentionally performed a liability-producing act for the express purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm was highly probable or substantially certain to result.[3] Fraud and malicious prosecution are common examples.[4] Section 533, however, does not bar coverage for intentionally harmful acts based solely on vicarious liability.[5] Continue reading “California Corner: California’s Bar on Coverage for Willful Acts under Insurance Code Section 533—Don’t Assume It Applies”

California Corner: California Passes Historic Privacy Law: What to Consider Now to Reduce Future Financial Exposure

Jennifer J. Daniels and Linda Kornfeld

On June 28, 2018, California passed a historic privacy bill (AB 375) that mirrors some of the privacy obligations that recently came into effect in Europe under the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”). The new California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (the “Act”) will go into effect on January 1, 2020. The new law requires greater transparency in information practices and gives individuals powerful new rights with respect to their personal information. Complying will be a challenge for many American businesses, in particular those that have not had to grapple with GDPR. Continue reading “California Corner: California Passes Historic Privacy Law: What to Consider Now to Reduce Future Financial Exposure”