A recent case we handled highlights the importance of reading a complaint’s allegations very carefully. Competitors in high-stakes litigation may file complaints and cross-complaints against each other alleging a variety of intellectual property violations and business torts. These may include patent or copyright infringement, attempted monopolization, unfair competition and interference with contractual relations. On their face, none of these are likely to be covered by commercial insurance. But competitors often cannot resist alleging every conceivable harm, and this may include asserting that the defendant (or cross-defendant) has disparaged the plaintiff to customers and the public. Most general liability policies cover disparagement as part of the “personal and advertising injury” coverage. In California, the broad duty to defend results in valuable coverage for attorneys’ fees and costs in what would otherwise be uncovered litigation. Continue Reading Disparagement Allegations May Trigger Valuable Coverage
This 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In early March, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion in Archer Western Contractors v. National Union, No. 15-55648 (filed Mar. 2 2017).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 This is not the first time the Ninth Circuit has issued an unpublished opinion interpreting “that particular part” to apply to the entirety of a project.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”
A 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
Policyholders should always consider the potential for coverage under their CGL policies if they suffer a data security breach. However, as the cases described in my article for Corporate Counsel, coverage is highly fact-dependent and subject to interpretation by the courts even in the absence of a data-related exclusion. The addition of such an exclusion narrows the policyholder’s options.
As a result, policyholders should carefully consider their insurance programs and the unique risks that their businesses face in light of their own computer systems, third-party computer systems on which they rely and the data they collect and/or hold. They should consider whether technology errors and omissions liability or cyberinsurance would more effectively address their risks. With the help of their insurance brokers and counsel, companies can negotiate and tailor those policies to their risks and exposures relating to computer systems, personally identifiable information and confidential third-party business information. Some businesses may choose to rely exclusively on their CGL policies for protection against data breach lawsuits. But that decision should be made deliberately after understanding all the risks and options.
Read the full article: Data Security Breach Liability: Is Your Business Covered?
In the age of email, text messaging, and Twitter, litigation focused on the sending of unwanted fax messages sounds old-fashioned. Indeed, it was nearly twenty years ago that Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (47 U.S.C. § 227) (“TCPA”), which provides for damages of $500 per violation for sending fax spam to thousands of recipients at once. Citing freedom from nuisance, peace and quiet, and conservation of ink and paper, among other reasons, courts across the country have found liability for violations of the TCPA. Many courts, including the Supreme Courts of Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts, and courts of appeal in Ohio and Texas, have also found that violations of the TCPA are covered by the “personal and advertising injury” coverage in the standard commercial general liability policy, which typically includes the “oral or written publication of material that violates a person’s right of privacy.” Continue Reading California Court Of Appeal Decides That Blast Faxing Does Not Violate The Recipient’s Right Of Privacy For Purposes Of Insurance Coverage