Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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Rather than using the insurance agency’s in-house presiding officer, American Property Casualty Insurance Association (Association) requested an adjudicative hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) pursuant to RCW 48.04.010(5). The request was denied. The Association sought a writ of mandamus against Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, requiring him to transfer the hearing. The Washington Supreme Court concluded the Association could have sought judicial review by way of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), ch. 34.05 RCW, thus, the Association failed to demonstrate it had “no plain, speedy, and adequate remedy” at law, one of the three requirements for a writ to issue. Accordingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition. View "Am. Prop. Cas. Ins. Ass'n v. Kreidler" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff challenged Lincoln’s denial of her claim for long-term disability benefits. On de novo review, the district court affirmed Lincoln’s denial of Plaintiff's claim, but it adopted new rationales that the ERISA plan administrator did not rely on during the administrative process. Specifically, the district court found for the first time that Plaintiff was not credible and that she had failed to supply objective evidence to support her claim.The Ninth Circuit held that when a district court reviews de novo a plan administrator’s denial of benefits, it examines the administrative record without deference to the administrator’s conclusions to determine whether the administrator erred in denying benefits. The district court’s task is to determine whether the plan administrator’s decision is supported by the record, not to engage in a new determination of whether the claimant is disabled. Accordingly, the district court must examine only the rationales the plan administrator relied on in denying benefits and cannot adopt new rationales that the claimant had no opportunity to respond to during the administrative process.Here, the district court erred because it relied on new rationales to affirm the denial of benefits. View "VICKI COLLIER V. LINCOLN LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY" on Justia Law

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Progressive Direct Insurance Company ("Progressive") appealed a circuit court order granting a motion for a partial summary judgment filed by Madison Keen and joined by Robert Creller and Alfa Mutual Insurance Company ("Alfa"); the trial court certified its order as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. Civ. P. In September 2019, Keen was involved in a motor-vehicle accident. She sought compensation from Creller, who was the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident. The vehicle Creller was driving was owned by his parents and was insured by Alfa. The evidence suggested that Creller and his spouse were living with Creller's parents at the time of the accident. Alfa paid Keen the limits of the insurance policy, and Keen executed a settlement agreement and a release in favor of Creller and Alfa. In June 2021, Keen filed the lawsuit at issue here seeking underinsured-motorist benefits from two different policies, namely, a policy issued by Progressive covering the vehicle Keen was driving at the time of the accident and a policy issued by State Farm Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm") covering a second vehicle in Keen's household. Because Keen was driving the vehicle insured by Progressive at the time of the accident, her Progressive underinsured-motorist coverage was the primary insurance and the State Farm underinsured-motorist coverage was the secondary insurance. During the litigation, Creller was deposed and revealed the existence of an additional insurance policy covering his spouse's vehicle, which had been issued by Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") and which identified Creller as a named insured. The discovery of the Allstate policy raised the possibility that Creller might have had additional liability insurance coverage that could have compensated Keen for her injuries. Based on the alleged existence of additional insurance benefits, she asserted that there had been a mutual mistake among the parties to the settlement agreement and the release. Keen eventually moved for partial summary judgment, arguing the Allstate policy did not provide coverage. For its part, Progressive opposed Keen's motion, because the availability of benefits under the Allstate policy might affect Progressive's interests with respect to Keen's underinsured- motorist claim. The trial court granted Keen's motion and certified its order as final pursuant to Rule 54(b). Progressive appealed. Because it appeared there was a question of fact based on the evidence before the trial court existed when it entered the partial summary judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed that judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Progressive Direct Ins. Co. v. Keen, et al." on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned a particular rate known as a “base rate,” which State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund) used to calculate premiums for its insureds. California Insurance Code section 11664(e)(6)(A) stated: “[i]f the premium rate in the governing classification for the insured is to be increased 25 percent or greater and the insurer intends to renew the policy, the insurer shall provide a written notice of a renewal offer not less than 30 days prior to the policy renewal date.” In a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal found State Fund was not obligated to provide notice to cross-complainant Cover Right Roofing (Cover Right) under this statute. The increase at issue was not due to any change in the premium rate of Cover Right’s governing classification. Rather, a third party changed the applicable governing classification criteria, which caused Cover Right to be assigned a new governing classification with a higher premium rate. The statute did not require notice in such circumstances. Thus, the Court found the trial court correctly granted State Fund’s motion for summary judgment and affirm the judgment. View "Cover Right Roofing, Inc. v. State Compensation Ins. Fund" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Keene Auto Body, Inc. appealed a circuit court order that dismissed its complaint against defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Keene Auto Body, acting as an assignee of Caleb Meagher, who insured his vehicle through State Farm, sued State Farm for breach of contract for failing to cover the full cost of repairs to the insured’s vehicle. State Farm moved to dismiss the suit on grounds that, because of an anti-assignment clause in the insured’s policy, the insured’s assignment of his breach of contract claim to Keene Auto Body was not valid, and that, even if it was, Keene Auto Body did not sufficiently state a claim for breach of contract. The trial court granted the motion. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found the anti-assignment clause at issue here was ambiguous, and construed it against the insurer. Therefore, the clause did not prohibit the insured from assigning his post-loss claim to Keene Auto Body. Given this holding, the Supreme Court determined Keene Auto Body's factual allegations were sufficient to survive State Farm's motion to dismiss. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Keene Auto Body, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between an Insurer and pension holders, the Second Circuit granted in part and denied in part Insurer's motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs did not timely appeal from the district court’s orders addressing the methodology for computing individual relief, so the court lacked jurisdiction over that portion of Plaintiffs’ appeal. However, the court found that it had jurisdiction over the portion of Plaintiffs’ appeal challenging the district court’s order denying sanctions. Considering that order on the merits, the court concluded that it was not an abuse of discretion and affirmed. View "Amara v. Cigna Corporation" on Justia Law

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The Travelers Indemnity Company appeals the judgment entered after the superior court denied Travelers’ petition for a writ of administrative mandate challenging the Insurance Commissioner’s decision that certain agreements relating to workers’ compensation insurance policies issued to Adir International, LLC were unenforceable. Travelers contended that Adir’s lawsuit in the trial court, which included a request for a declaratory judgment the agreements were void, barred the Commissioner, under the doctrine of exclusive concurrent jurisdiction, from exercising jurisdiction while that lawsuit was pending. Travelers also appealed the post-judgment order granting Adir’s motion for attorney fees, contending attorney fees were not authorized.   The Second Appellate Division affirmed the order and judgment denying Travelers’s petition. The court explained that the exclusive concurrent jurisdiction doctrine does not apply in this context to proceedings pending before the trial court and an administrative agency; and, in any event, it was reasonable and consistent with the primary jurisdiction doctrine for the trial court to defer to the Commissioner’s determination of the validity of the agreement at issue. In addition, because Adir’s administrative claim fell within the agreement’s attorney fee provision, the court affirmed the post-judgment order awarding Adir attorney fees. View "The Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Lara" on Justia Law

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Respondent Myra Windham was seriously injured while driving a rental car that was considered a temporary substitute vehicle under her State Farm policy. In this declaratory judgment action instituted by Petitioner State Farm, the issue this case presented for the South Carolina Supreme Court's determination was whether Windham could stack her underinsured motorist ("UIM") coverage pursuant to section 38-77-160 of the South Carolina Code. The circuit court agreed with State Farm that stacking was prohibited, and the court of appeals reversed. Because both parties offered reasonable interpretations of the policy language, the Supreme Court found an ambiguity existed, which it construed against the drafter. Accordingly, the Court agreed with the court of appeals that Windham could stack, and affirmed as modified. View "State Farm v. Windham" on Justia Law

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Bliss Sequoia Insurance and Risk Advisors held an insurance policy from Allied Property and Casualty Insurance (Allied Property) covering any liability that Bliss Sequoia might incur for “damages because of ‘bodily injury.’” One of Bliss Sequoia’s clients was a water park, and after a park guest was injured, the park sued Bliss Sequoia for professional negligence, alleging that the coverage limits on the park’s liability insurance were too low. This appeal presents the question whether that negligence claim arose “because of” the guest’s “bodily injury” and is therefore covered by Bliss Sequoia’s policy. We agree with the district court that the answer is no.   The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Allied Property. Allied’s policy provided that it covered any sums Bliss Sequoia was “legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’ or ‘property damage.’” Bliss Sequoia alleged that the bodily injury at issue was a “but-for” cause of Bliss Sequoia’s professional-negligence liability. The panel held that pure but-for causation would result in infinite liability for all wrongful acts, and therefore, the law almost never employs that standard without limiting it in some way. The law cuts off remote chains of causation by applying common law principles of proximate causation. Further, the personal-injury lawsuit against the water park arose “because of bodily injury,” but the claims of professional negligence did not. Because Bliss Sequoia’s policy did not cover those claims, Allied had no duty to defend or indemnify Bliss Sequoia against them. View "BLISS SEQUOIA INSURANCE, ET AL V. ALLIED PROPERTY & CASUALTY INS" on Justia Law

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In 2012, a competitor sued Creation for trademark violations. Creation requested that Selective Insurance provide coverage. Selective refused. Creation’s settlement with its competitor prevented Creation from selling one of its primary lines. Creation struggled financially. Selective sought a declaration in Illinois state court that it had no duty to defend. Creation countersued and also alleged breach of the insurance policy. The Illinois court entered partial summary judgment for Creation on its duty-to-defend claim, limited to fees Creation incurred before the original trademark litigation was settled.In 2014—in the middle of the state-court litigation—Creation sued Selective in federal court for breach of contract and under the Illinois Insurance Code. In 2016, Creation voluntarily dismissed its state-court breach-of-contract claim with leave to refile. The Illinois court expressly reserved Creation’s right to maintain its federal action on its contract claim. After the 2017 state court award, the federal district court awarded Creation nearly $3 million in damages on the Insurance Code claim. After remand, Creation unsuccessfully sought to amend its complaint to seek punitive damages. The district court then concluded that the doctrines of claim and issue preclusion barred Creation’s remaining contract claim.The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting that the case is an “anomaly.” The state court expressly reserved Creation’s right to file the claim in federal court, so the suit is not precluded by its earlier state-court litigation. View "Creation Supply, Inc. v. Selective Insurance Co. of the Southeast" on Justia Law