A Recent California Supreme Court Decision Clarifies when an Intentional Act with Unforeseen Results is an Accident under a Liability Policy

Posted in: Duty to Defend, General Liablity, Insurance Litigation Blog, Negligence June 29, 2018

Generally, an insured will not receive coverage under a liability policy when they intentionally cause the loss or injury for which they are seeking coverage.  As expected, insurers regularly deny claims when they are able to characterize an insured’s conduct as intentional, even when the damage or injury caused was accidental or not intended by the insured.  In recent years, insurers in California have been able to successfully defend their denial of insurance claims involving an intentional act before California courts. The success experienced by these insurers has largely been the result of a California Supreme Court decision in 2009 holding that “an injury-producing event is not an ‘accident’ within the policy’s coverage language when all of the acts, the

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California Court Affirms Decision Finding Bad Faith Where Insurer Interprets Policy Against Insured's Interests

Posted in: Attorneys Fees, Attorneys' Fees, Bad Faith, Commercial General Liability Insurance, Duty to Defend, Insurance Bad Faith, Insurance Litigation Blog, Life Insurance, Punitive Damages October 11, 2017

On August 31, 2017, the California Court of Appeal discussed a variety of topics touching upon important matters in insurance “bad faith” litigation in Pulte Home Corp. v. Am. Safety Indemnity Co., 14 Cal.App.5th 1086 (Aug. 31, 2017). In this blog, we discuss the case in detail as well as the potential benefits the opinion provides to insureds’ future claims for bad faith. Before we discuss the details of the case, we first address the basics of insurance bad faith. Next, we detail the issues addressed in the case, the facts of the case, the court’s reasoning and ultimate rationale. Finally, we address the Pulte’s broader impact, solidifying the insurer’s good faith duty to interpret ambiguous policy provisions in …

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High Court Changes Cumis Landscape

Posted in: Attorneys Fees, Attorneys' Fees, Case Updates, Duty to Defend, General Liablity August 24, 2017

We all know the maxim that “bad facts make bad law.”  Two years after J.R. Marketing, LLC prevailed in the Court of Appeal concerning its dispute with its commercial general liability insurer, Hartford, it ran out of luck before the California Supreme Court in its fight over important Cumis counsel issues.  Hartford Cas. Ins. Co. v. J.R. Marketing, LLC, 190 Cal. Rptr. 3d 599, 2015 DJDAR 9111 (Cal. Aug. 10, 2015).  This is a must read for every lawyer in California that acts as Cumis counsel.

The High Court held an insurance company can sue independent counsel (i.e., Cumis counsel) directly for reimbursement of unreasonable or unnecessary legal charges counsel billed it to defend its insured.  This …

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High Court Changes Cumis Landscape

Posted in: Attorneys Fees, Attorneys' Fees, Case Updates, Duty to Defend, General Liablity August 26, 2015

We all know the maxim that “bad facts make bad law.”  Two years after J.R. Marketing, LLC prevailed in the Court of Appeal concerning its dispute with its commercial general liability insurer, Hartford, it ran out of luck before the California Supreme Court in its fight over important Cumis counsel issues.  Hartford Cas. Ins. Co. v. J.R. Marketing, LLC, 190 Cal. Rptr. 3d 599, 2015 DJDAR 9111 (Cal. Aug. 10, 2015).  This is a must read for every lawyer in California that acts as Cumis counsel.…

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California Court of Appeal Emphasizes Just How Broad the Duty to Defend Is, which Includes Suits Alleging Even Rape

Posted in: Case Updates, Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, Duty to Defend, Excess Insurance, Homeowners Insurance, Insurance Litigation Blog April 01, 2015

A liability insurer’s duty to defend its insured against lawsuits is extremely broad, much broader than its duty to indemnify its insured for a judgment entered against it.  That has been the law in California for decades.  But just how broad is the duty to defend?  Does it extend to civil lawsuits alleging the insured raped and sexually assaulted the plaintiff?  Does it extend to lawsuits alleging intentional acts by the insured?  You bet it does if the policy contains the right language.…

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General Liability Insurer Has No Duty to Defend Massage Therapist’s Alleged Sexual Assault

Posted in: Bad Faith, Commercial General Liability Insurance, Duty to Defend October 23, 2014

General liability insurers and their agents often lure commercial clients with grandiose promises of coverage for business operations, but upon receiving a notice of a claim, interpret their policy exclusions liberally to limit what they consider covered business operations so as to deny coverage.  A recent case from the California Court of Appeal, Baek v. Continental, 2014 Cal App. LEXIS 893 (2d Dist. Oct. 6, 2014) (“Baek”), expanded on an insurer’s broad duty to defend wherever there is a potential for coverage but in this case denied a duty to defend.

Baek involved a Heaven Massage Wellness Center (“HMWC”) client, “Jaime W.,” who brought suit against HMWC and her massage therapist (“Jaime W. action”), Luiz Baek (“Baek”), …

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Policyholder Wins Handed Down in Insurance Decisions. Daily Journal Publishes McKennon Law Group PC Article.

Posted in: Breach of Contract, Case Updates, Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, Duty to Defend, Duty to Settle, ERISA, Insurance Bad Faith, News, Unfair Business Practices/Unfair Competition February 12, 2014

The February 10, 2014 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal featured Robert McKennon’s article entitled:  “Policyholder Wins Handed Down in Insurance Decisions.”  In it, Mr. McKennon discusses six insurance decisions handed down in California and federal courts in 2013 that were favorable to policyholders.…

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The Reasonable Expectations of the Covered Party, Even an Additional Insured, Determines the Interpretation of Ambiguous Policy Language

Posted in: Case Updates, Duty to Defend, General Liablity, Policy Interpretation January 27, 2014

In California, courts have long held that where a policy provision is ambiguous because it is susceptible to multiple interpretations, the reasonable expectation of the covered party governs.  But which parties’ objectively reasonable expectations should govern where there are both a named insured and an additional named insured claiming coverage?  In its significant decision in Transport Insurance Company v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, __ Cal. App. 4th __, 2014 Cal. App. LEXIS 28 (Jan. 13, 2014), the Court of Appeal of California held that it is the objectively reasonable expectation of each party seeking coverage that is applied in determining the meaning of language within an insurance contract as it applies to that party, even where it …

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Insurers Have a Duty to Defend at the Outset of Litigation Even If a SIR Has Not Been Exhausted

Posted in: Case Updates, Commercial General Liability Insurance, Duty to Defend, General Liablity, Policy Interpretation October 16, 2013

Insurers providing general liability insurance cannot shirk their duty to defend insureds at the outset of litigation by relying on self-insured retention (SIR) provisions in those policies unless the policies expressly and unambiguously make the insurer’s duty to defend contingent upon the SIR.  So held the Fourth District Court of Appeals in American Safety Indemnity Company v. Admiral Insurance Company, __ Cal. App. 4th ___, 2013 Cal. App. LEXIS 779 (2013).  The court’s decision in American Safety is highly favorable to insureds because it substantially limits the ability of insurers to circumvent their obligation to pay first-dollar for the defense of their insured by arguing that the SIR has not been exhausted.…

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Insurer's General Reservation of Rights Does Not Entitle Insured to Cumis Counsel

Posted in: Commercial General Liability Insurance, Directors & Officers Insurance, Duty to Defend, Policy Interpretation, Property & Casualty Insurance September 05, 2013

In a recent ruling, the California Court of Appeal held that an insurer’s general reservation of rights to deny coverage of damages outside its policy does not create a conflict of interest with the insured, such that the insured in entitled to Cumis counsel.  The decision in Federal Insurance Co. v. MBL, Inc. __ Cal. App. 4th __,  2013 Cal. App. LEXIS 679, 2013 WL 4506149 (August 26, 2013) follows California precedent denying insureds the right to select independent counsel at the insurer’s expense absent an actual conflict of interest.…

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