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Insurance Law Archives

Wisconsin Supreme Court Weighs In On The "Made Whole" Doctrine In Subrogation Cases

The Wisconsin Supreme Court in Dufour v. Progressive Classic Insurance Co., 881 N.W.2d 678 (Wis. 2016) held that insurance companies may retain funds obtained as subrogation for payments that the insurer had previously made, even though the insured may not have been fully compensated for the loss. The court found that it would look to the specific facts and equities in dictating whether the "made whole" doctrine would apply. Under the "made whole" doctrine, insurers are typically prevented from retaining funds received for its subrogation claims in cases where the insured has not been made whole. The court found that the "made whole" doctrine is an equitable doctrine and only applied when the equities favor the policyholder. In cases where there were reasonable reasons why the equities favored the insurance company, the doctrine would not be applied.

Excess Other Insurance Clause Struck Down By 5th Circuit Court Of Appeals

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit recently held, interpreting Mississippi law, that a policy's excess other insurance clause in a policy issued to an alumni association was mutually repugnant with the other insurance clause in the University's policy.

Utah Court Of Appeals Rules That Homeowner Policy Did Not Cover Water Infiltration Caused By Storm When The Water Entered Into The Property Through A Partially Completed Roof

In Poulsen v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, 26 UT App. 170 (2016) the court found that Farmers' homeowners policy did not provide coverage for water intrusion from a wind storm when the water entered into the house through a partially completed roof. The roof contained only roofing components that were in place at the time of the storm and was not a roof.

Covenant Judgment Settlements In Washington Do Not Automatically Constitute A Waiver Of Attorney-Client Privilege And Work Product Protection When The Insured's Claims For Bad Faith Against The Insurer Are Assigned To The Adverse Party

In Steel v. Philadelphia Indemnity Co., 381 P.3d 111 (2016), a daycare center employee was convicted of child rape and child molestation while working at a daycare center. The parents brought a negligence action against the center. The daycare center had $1 million in coverage. Plaintiffs offered to settle for $4 million, which was rejected by Philadelphia. As trial approached, the insureds entered into a $25 million covenant judgment settlement with the plaintiffs. As part of the settlement the insureds received a covenant not to execute and the plaintiffs received an assignment of the insured's bad faith claims.

Timely Offering Policy Limits Does Not Immunize Insurer From Bad Faith Exposure

The California Supreme Court in Barickman v. Mercury Casualty Co., 2 Cal. App. 5th 508 (2nd Dist. 2016) held that the insurance carrier was liable for bad faith failure to settle, notwithstanding the fact that the carrier offered its policy limits to the claimants in a timely manner in exchange for a full release of civil liability. The court found that the insurer's failure to do "all within its power to effect a settlement" could constitute bad faith, notwithstanding the fact that the insurance company offered its policy limits to the injured claimants in exchange for a full release of liability. The insurance company had refused to consent to additional language in the release designed to preserve the claimant's rights to receive criminal restitution from the insured tortfeasor.

7th Circuit Finds that Extrinsic Evidence is Admissible in a Declaratory Judgment Action to Determine the Carrier's Duty to Defend

In Landmark American Insurance Co. v. Hilger, 838 F.3d 821 (7th Cir. 2016) the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit found that the insurance company was allowed to offer evidence outside the underlying court complaints and that the defendant did not render the professional services in question as an independent contractor. In this case the insured was sued by two credit unions in two different states (Michigan and Tennessee) for allegedly joining with a life insurance agent and a life insurance broker to persuade the credit unions to fund loans based upon life insurance policies with an overstated value that was used as collateral. When the insured and the insurance agent were sued, they tendered their defense to Landmark American under the agent's and the broker's liability policy. The policy provided coverage for claims arising out of any negligent act, error, or omission committed in the agent's rendering of professional services as an agent or broker. However, the tenders were denied.

California Court of Appeals Fixes Punitive Damage Ratio and Bad Faith Cases

Historically the United States Supreme Court has admonished trial courts with the high court's observation that "few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process." State Farm Mut Automobile Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 424 (2003). The California Supreme Court has taken a different view of what the proper ratio of punitive to compensatory damages should be. In Simon v. Sao Paolo U.S. Holding, Inc.. 35 Cal. 4th 1159 (2005) the California Supreme Court upheld a ten-to-one ratio. The California Supreme Court observed that the one-to-one ratio of the Campbell decision would not be applied, with the court suggesting that a ratio of nine or ten-to-one would be the point in California where a punitive damage award became constitutionally suspect and required special justification. Simon, 35 Cal. 4th at 1182.

MISSOURI HIGH COURT CALCULATES UIM ATTACHMENT POINT

The Missouri Supreme Court in Swadley v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co., 513 S.W.3d 355 (Mo. 2017) held that UIM coverage did not apply when the underinsured motorist had liability coverage limits greater than the insured's underinsured motorist limits. Previously, the Missouri Court of Appeals had explained the purpose of UIM coverage. "The purpose of underinsured motorist coverage is to provide insurance coverage for insureds who have been bodily injured by a negligent motorist whose own automobile liability insurance coverage is insufficient to pay for the injured person's actual damages." Wasson v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co., 358 S.W. 3d 113, 117 (Mo. App. 2011).

MISSISSIPPI SUPREME COURT FINDS THAT LOSS OF CONSORTIUM CLAIMS ARE PART OF THE PER PERSON LIMITS FOR UIM COVERAGE

The Mississippi Supreme Court in Rylee v. Progressive Gulf Insurance Co., 2017 WL 949545 (Miss. Mar. 9, 2017) found that a UIM policy's "each person" limit applied not only to a husband's bodily injury claim, but also to the wife's loss of consortium claim, i.e., loss of consortium claims are part of the "each person" limit and are not afforded a separate "each person" limit. The court noted that on two separate prior occasions, the court had interpreted similar policy language and reached the same conclusion that to recover more than the "each person" limit for one person, there must be more than one person who sustained bodily injury during the accident. Citing State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co. v. Acosta, 479 S.2d 1089, 1090‑91 (1985) and Old Sec. Cas. Insurance v. Clemmer, 455 S.2d 781, 782 (Miss. 1984). Because the wife in the case at bar was not with her husband during the crash, her husband was the only person who sustained bodily injury in the accident. Therefore, the wife's loss of consortium claim fell under the "each person" policy limit available to the husband. The court also noted that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals relied upon the Acosta decision when it rejected a similar claim. See, Reed v. State Farm Mutual Insurance, 784 F.2d 577, 578-79 (5th Cir. 1986).

CALIFORNIA COURT OF APPEALS DECIDES WHAT "FINAL ADJUDICATION" MEANS IN THE D&O INSURANCE CONTEXT

The California Court of Appeals (2nd District) in Stein v. Axis Insurance Co., 10 Cal. App. 5th, 673, 216 Cal.Rptr.3d 804 (2nd Dist. 2017) held that a provision in a D&O policy requiring the insured to repay defense expenses unless there was a "final adjudication" determining that the insured committed willful misconduct did not eliminate coverage for defense expenses incurred during the insured's appeal of the criminal fraud conviction.

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