Clients regularly ask their counsel to propose alternative fee arrangements and they are growing in popularity. While these arrangements can be beneficial for clients, they should be carefully considered when an insurance company will be paying all or part of the defense fees. Insurers are typically averse to alternative fee arrangements; they are more comfortable with a straight hourly arrangement – after trying to impose rate caps and litigation guidelines of course. Carriers have ingrained methods of managing defense costs and negotiating bespoke alternative arrangements with individual insureds is not cost-effective or efficient for a claims adjuster dealing with dozens or even hundreds of cases. Accordingly, insureds may need to accept more traditional fee deals when retaining counsel that will ultimately be paid by the insurer. Continue Reading Alternative Fee Arrangements When the Insurer Is Footing the Bill

image: Are you Covered?A number of companies have been sued by the FTC in recent years, alleging, for example, that the company made claims regarding the product or service without adequate substantiation. Many of these companies are small private companies with limited resources. These companies frequently have “Management Liability” or “Private D&O” coverage which may provide relief. Many insureds do not understand that these polices are different than public company D&O policies, because Management Liability policies provide broad coverage for the company itself, not just for the directors and officers. If a company is sued by the FTC, these policies may provide coverage whether individual defendants are named or not. Continue Reading There May Be Coverage for the Defense and Settlement of FTC Claims

Are You Ready? roadsignWe first began studying the implications of self-driving cars, or “AVs”, two years ago. At that time, observers predicted that fully autonomous “Level 5” cars (i.e., a car with no steering wheel) would not appear in significant numbers until 2030. In 2015, Lux Research observed:

Fully autonomous driving may happen by 2030, but only in highly restricted environments and likely only at low speeds.

That prediction now appears to be well off-target. The world may not be ready for the pace at which AVs come to dominate city streets. Continue Reading The Future Has Arrived for Self-Driving Cars

Are you Covered? note pinned to boardThis is part one of a two-part series looking at how court decisions in recent years have thwarted general contractors’ reasonable expectation of coverage under their general liability policies.

In early March, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion in Archer Western Contractors v. National Union, No. 15-55648 (filed Mar. 2 2017). The opinion held that the phrase “that particular part” as used in the “Damage to Property” exclusions in a CGL policy must be interpreted broadly to encompass “the entire project on which a general contractor is performing operations.” This is not the first time the Ninth Circuit has issued an unpublished opinion interpreting “that particular part” to apply to the entirety of a project.

The Ninth Circuit in these cases ignored the plain meaning of words that the insurance industry itself has explained should be construed in the narrowest possible sense. Policyholders, particularly general contractors, should beware this worrisome trend in the courts, as it is creating the potential for a gap in ongoing operations coverage that was not meant to exist. Continue Reading Courts Misunderstand the Meaning of “That Particular Part”

settlement-statementFor decades, California courts have mandated that an insurer is obligated to accept a “reasonable” settlement demand within policy limits on behalf of its insured. If it fails to do so, it is liable for the entire judgment, including amounts in excess of the policy limits. Comunale v. Traders & Gen. Ins. Co. (1958) 50 Cal.2d 654, 659. Subsequent cases have addressed whether an insurer can escape excess liability if its decision-making process, as opposed to the settlement itself, was “reasonable”. California law is clear that even an honest mistake as to whether the claim is covered does not absolve an insurer from excess liability. Johansen v. Calif. State Auto Association Inter-Ins. Bureau (1975) 15 Cal.3d 9, 15-16. However, courts have also considered whether an insured must show the insurer acted “unreasonably” in assessing the value of the claim. In Crisci v. Security Ins. Co. of New Haven (1967) 66 Cal.2d 425, 431, the California Supreme Court held that the very fact of an excess judgment created an inference that the insurer was liable for the excess judgment. Other cases, however, looked at whether the insurance company properly investigated all facts relating to liability and damages. See, e.g., Betts v. Allstate Ins. Co. (1984) 154 Cal.App.3d 688, 707. Continue Reading Insured May Bear the Consequences of Insurer’s Negligence

cyber attack magnifying glassWhile I wrote this article for a wine industry audience, the information in it is relevant to every company that is in any way connected to the internet. You should consider whether your insurance coverage adequately addresses your actual cyber risks today.

Cyber insurance can cover some of the more well-known risks, such as the costs to investigate and respond to the loss or theft of personally identifiable information. But cyber insurance won’t cover everything. It often will not cover bodily injury and property damage due to a cyber attack, which now is a real risk for certain companies whose critical infrastructure or products are internet-connected. Cyber insurance can provide business interruption coverage due to a cyber attack, but this coverage is often quite limited, though broader and better coverage is now starting to emerge in the market.

As a result, my article suggests that companies take a close look at what their real cyber risks are and then holistically review their insurance programs (not just the cyber policy, but also “traditional” policies such as property insurance) to ensure they are adequately protected.

Read the full article on fbm.com: Winery, Vineyard Cyber Attack Risk Grows With Web-Connected Systems

people talking in front of a courthouseAre communications among a client, a third party, such as an insurance broker, and the client’s attorney privileged? The answer is yes, if the communications are confidential and reasonably necessary to accomplish the purpose for which the lawyer was consulted. Behunin v. Superior Court, 2017 WL 977095 (2d Dist. March 14, 2017), decided last week, addresses this question. Continue Reading Communications With Your Broker May Be Privileged

man throwing diceD&O policies vary quite a bit from carrier to carrier, and language on “standard” exclusions can change from year to year. Accordingly, it is important to do a yearly review of your D&O policy to make sure your company has the right coverage. Three recent federal court decisions interpreting the “insured vs. insured” or “I v. I” exclusion remind us why examining specific policy language and understanding how it may apply to your business is so important. Continue Reading Trio of Recent Decisions on the I v. I Exclusion Should Remind Policyholders to Annually Review the Language in Their Policy to Avoid Losing Coverage

Blog-Image---Are-You-CoveredA recent case in the Northern District of California offers two cautionary tales to policyholders. First, when buying insurance, companies should understand their risks and ensure that the policies they’re buying match those risks as closely as possible. Second, when a claim arises, policyholders must carefully consider all the allegations, not just the formal causes of action, in the complaint to determine whether they might trigger an insurer’s defense obligation. Continue Reading CGL Coverage for False Advertising and Intellectual Property Claims: Sometimes It’s There, but You Need to Know Where to Look for it

Blog-Image---attorney-clientAttorney invoices may be protected in their entirety by the attorney-client privilege during ongoing litigation. After litigation has concluded, however, those same invoices may be discoverable. So concludes the California Supreme Court in a fascinating ending to a case we have been following since last June of last year, County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court (opinion). In a 4-3 decision that mirrored the split we observed in oral argument, the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal. Continue Reading California Supreme Court Concludes Attorney Invoices Privileged During Ongoing Litigation