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In early March, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion in Archer Western Contractors v. National Union, No. 15-55648 (filed Mar. 2 2017).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 This is not the first time the Ninth Circuit has issued an unpublished opinion interpreting “that particular part” to apply to the entirety of a project.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

Blog-Image---Wage-and-HourDon’t be too surprised if you see a “wage and hour” exclusion in your employment practices liability insurance policy, especially if you have employees in California. While these exclusions purport to bar coverage for claims brought under laws that govern “wage and hour” practices, lawsuits involving “wage and hour” violations often include alleged violations of other labor-related statutes. This was the scenario presented recently in Hanover Ins. Co. v. Poway Academy of Hair Design, Inc. in which a federal court was asked to decide whether a “wage and hour” exclusion applied to a claim that the insured had failed to reimburse reasonable business expenses in violation of California Labor Code section 2802. Continue Reading Claim for Failure to Reimburse Reasonable Business Expenses Not Barred by EPL Policy’s Wage and Hour Exclusion

shutterstock_109214660-Cyber-Attack-BlogThe Internet of Things gives rise to many risks and exposures that companies and their insurers were not thinking about as recently as a couple years ago, and probably aren’t fully cognizant of today.

The DDoS attack late last week on internet infrastructure company Dyn should act as a wake-up call.  It shows how large and disruptive a cyber attack can become because of all the seemingly benign “things” connected to the internet.  And it should cause companies to think about what their risks really are and whether their current risk management approaches address them.

Just one example from this latest attack – I’m reading that one or more of the manufacturers of the devices that were used as bots in this attack must recall a very large number of products because the passwords (which were easily cracked) cannot be changed by the user.  The software that runs those products came ready installed on components bought from China, and it is this software that contains the vulnerability.  Now that the passwords are known, the devices can no longer be considered secure.  Maybe the manufacturers have product recall insurance or maybe they don’t.  But they likely never thought they would have to conduct a product recall under these circumstances and whether such a recall might be covered under their current insurance program.

Protect your company by:

  • Understanding your company’s IoT exposures.
  • Using your company’s broker and coverage counsel to review all insurance policies with IoT exposures in mind and negotiate favorable policy terms.
  • Revisiting the policies annually at renewal time because of quickly changing risks and policy terms.

Blog-Image---attorney-clientOn October 6, the California Supreme Court heard oral argument in Los Angeles Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court, a case that we have blogged about twice in the past because of its possible impact on policyholders (see posts Submitting Your Defense Bills to Insurers Could Mean Waiving Privilege and California Supreme Court Will Review Appellate Decision Holding That Attorney Bills Are Privileged). On appeal, the Court will decide whether to affirm the California Court of Appeal’s decision that legal invoices sent to the County of Los Angeles by outside counsel are within the scope of attorney-client privilege and thus exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act. As this issue could have a major impact on policyholders’ ability to share defense bills with insurers, we attended the oral argument. Continue Reading California Supreme Court Leans in Favor of Treating Defense Bills as Privileged Communications