We do not often write about coverage opinions from jurisdictions as far away as Oklahoma; however, a recent case from the Federal Tenth Circuit looked at one of our favorite topics and came out with a much better reasoned opinion than recent decisions from the Ninth Circuit.

I’ve written before on the topic of the meaning of “that particular part” as the phrase is used in exclusions j (5) and j(6) of the Commercial General Liability (“CGL”) policy. The “j” exclusions exclude coverage for damage to certain property. Specifically, the j (5) and (6) exclusions state that the insurance does not apply to:

(5) That particular part of real property on which you or any contractors or subcontractors working directly indirectly on your behalf are performing operations, if the “property damage” arises out of those operations; or

(6) That particular part of any property that must be restored, repaired or replaced because “your work” was incorrectly performed on it.

The part of these exclusions that some courts consistently get wrong is the meaning of the phrase “that particular part.” In particular, in June 2017 I wrote about the way the Ninth Circuit (supposedly applying California law) has on several occasions ignored the insurance industry’s own explanation of the meaning of the phrase “that particular part” and applied the exclusion to the entire project a contractor was working on. Continue Reading The 10th Circuit Correctly Construes “That Particular Part” Narrowly

On January 15, 2019, the Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the California Supreme Court:

Does a commercial liability policy that covers “personal injury,” defined as “injury… arising out of… [o]ral or written publication… of material that violates a person’s rights of privacy,” trigger the insurer’s duty to defend the insured against a claim that the insured violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending unsolicited text message advertisement that did not reveal any private information?
Yahoo! Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa., No. 17-16452, D.C. No. 5:17-cv-0447-NC.

Yahoo! sought coverage under its general liability policies issued by National Union for a number of putative class actions alleging that it violated the TCPA by transmitting unsolicited text message advertisements to putative class members. National Union denied coverage and Yahoo! sued for breach of contract. The Northern District granted National Union’s motion to dismiss and Yahoo! appealed that order to the Ninth Circuit.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Asks the California Supreme Court to Interpret the Scope of Personal Injury Coverage

In an unpublished decision, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the Central District of California’s interpretation of the related acts provision in a professional liability policy, holding that related acts reported in a prior policy period were not excluded from coverage in a subsequent period because that policy defined “Policy Period” to mean only the current policy period, not any policy period. Attorneys Insurance Mutual Risk Retention Group, Inc. v. Liberty Surplus Ins. Co., No. 17-55597 (9th Cir., Feb. 15, 2019). As a result, the related acts clause, which incorporated this term, could not be read to aggregate claims first made under prior policy periods with those made in the current period. The case reinforces the importance of reviewing the particular language of an insurance policy rather than relying on case law interpreting similar language. Small differences in policy language can lead to significant changes in the available coverage. Continue Reading Claims-Made Policy Note: Policy’s Use of Defined Terms May Expand or Limit Coverage Under Related Acts Provision

In November, Tyler wrote about insurance issues raised by both the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020. California’s governor Jerry Brown signed two other cyber-related laws in September, which will also go into effect on January 1, 2020 – Assembly Bill 1906 and Senate Bill 327, which address security concerns relating to devices that are capable of connecting to the internet – the so-called Internet of Things or “IoT”. See California Civil Code 1798.91.04(a) et seq.

The bills largely mirror each other and, put very simply, require manufacturers of devices that are capable of being connected to the internet to equip them with “reasonable” security features that are both appropriate to the device and require a user to generate a new means of authentication before access is granted to the device for the first time. Technologists are debating whether the laws are good or bad, and if good, whether they go far enough. Regardless, the law will become effective and manufacturers of IoT devices will have to comply with them. The law does not provide for a private right of action; it permits the state’s Attorney General to enforce its provisions.

The new California law applies to all connected devices sold or offered for sale in California. Because California is such a large market, this likely means that all such devices sold in North America and Europe will comply with California’s regulations, and older, less secure devices will be diverted to countries with fewer regulations.

Continue Reading Are You Covered for California’s New IoT Laws?

A 6th Circuit case decided earlier this year demonstrates how positions taken by insureds in prior litigation can impact or foreclose coverage in subsequent disputes with insurers. See K.V.G. Properties, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 900 F.3d 818 (6th Cir. 2018).

In K.V.G. Properties, Inc., K.V.G., was unaware that its tenant was operating a cannabis growing operation. Although Michigan allowed for limited legal marijuana cultivation, there was no evidence the tenant was in compliance with local law. After a DEA investigation resulted in a search warrant, K.V.G. had the tenant evicted from the property. K.V.G. then sought recovery from Westfield under its property policy for extensive damage done to the property by the tenant, including torn out walls, and damage to the HVAC, duct work, and roofing. Continue Reading Evicting Tenants Over “Illegal” Cannabis Operation Comes Back to Bite Landlords in Coverage Dispute

An obscure niche product less than a decade ago, cyber insurance is now a staple of many companies’ risk transfer programs. Its rise in prominence is no wonder. High-profile data breaches have caused businesses millions of dollars in losses and untold reputational harm. Companies are right to shed some of their cyber risks through insurance, and the basic protections it offers are well known. It pays for the business’s investigation and notification to consumers of data breaches, and it defends against ensuing class action lawsuits and regulatory actions.

As valuable as these basic coverages are, companies should carefully consider and address their risks beyond them. Those that fail to do so may leave some of their biggest risks uncovered.

Cyber insurance is not an off-the-shelf product; there is no standard form. Dozens of insurers sell it, each using its own proprietary language. And the market is evolving rapidly to keep up with the risk environment’s shifting sands. Thus, simply renewing last year’s policy will not provide the cutting-edge protection available today. Like other contracts that a business signs, a proposed cyber insurance policy must be scrutinized and negotiated to meet the business’s unique needs.  And the challenges in this area require a group effort that pulls in personnel and resources not just from the finance or risk management departments, but also IT, Legal and others.

Two areas of cyber insurance are seeing particularly rapid change and uncertainty: coverage for exposures relating to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and business interruption coverages. Broad coverage is ostensibly available for GDPR risks, but its enforceability under applicable law is in question. Business interruption coverages are increasingly addressing the interconnectedness and complexity of computer systems in the age of the cloud, where one system’s downtime can affect many other companies’ operations. Continue Reading Keeping Up With the Risks and Protections of Cyber Insurance

I recently participated in a panel at the Association of Business Trial Lawyers Annual Meeting – “Bad News Delivered: The Board Meeting and Crisis Management.”  Among other topics, the panel discussed the role of insurance counsel in crisis management, and addressed the following questions:

Who Is The Client? 

When meeting with a board in a time of crisis, it is critical to identify whether your client is the company or the board.  And if it is the company, the board must understand that while they are the decision-makers for your client, they themselves are not your clients.

Depending on whom you represent, your advice and strategy may differ.  Although acting on behalf of the company and bound by fiduciary duties and the duty of loyalty, in a time of crisis board members may be concerned about how the company’s insurance can be used to protect their interests, as opposed to the company’s.  If counsel is representing the company, the strategy may focus on preserving the coverage to settle a nasty case, fund burdensome defense or investigation costs, or protect individuals who are critical to the company’s on-going business strategies.  And if the company is in bankruptcy, the debtor in possession or trustee may want to preserve the assets for claims against the estate, as opposed to lower priority indemnity claims or non-indemnifiable claims against individual insureds such as board members.

If counsel is representing an individual, he or she may have the luxury of an indemnification from the company – assuming the company is able to fulfill it.  If not, counsel may need to invoke Side A or other provisions in the policy to preserve the policy limits for the individual directors or officers, and access to much-needed defense costs. Continue Reading Insurance in a Time of Crisis: Role of Insurance Counsel in Crisis Management

A federal district court in Florida has ruled that a claim against a policyholder arising out of a hacker’s theft of confidential credit card information was not covered under a commercial general liability (CGL) policy.  St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Rosen Millennium, Inc., M.D. Fla. Case No. 17-cv-540 (Sept. 28, 2018).  This is not the first such decision.  Courts have held similarly in Innovak Int’l, Inc. v. Hanover Ins. Co., 280 F.Supp.3d 1340, 1347-1348 (M.D. Fla. 2017) and Zurich American Ins. Co. v. Sony Corp. of America,  2014 WL 3253541, 2014 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 5141 at *71 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Feb. 21, 2014).

While we disagree with these courts’ reasoning, policyholders concerned about data breach liability should take note of these decisions and consider buying more reliable insurance protection for this risk. Continue Reading Florida Court Finds No CGL Coverage for Data Breach Claim

Defense counsel often assume that an insurer has a “duty” to fund any settlement opportunity their client wants to accept. The legal requirements under California law for triggering an insurer’s duty to settle are far more nuanced.  For non-insurance practitioners, this is often a confounding and confusing topic!  The fact is, an insurer doesn’t have a “duty to settle” a case simply because the defendant wants to do so, or because defense counsel recommends it.  And while a demand within the policy limits is essential, that isn’t the only required element.

I will moderate a Bar Association of San Francisco program on this subject on September 19. The panel will cover all the required elements necessary to trigger an insurer’s duty to settle, and provide helpful practice pointers for satisfying those elements.  We’ll also talk about consequences of the breach of the duty to settle.  The panelists will provide the defense counsel perspective, as well as perspectives from both sides of the insurance coverage bar. For program details and to register to attend, visit the BASF event page, here.

While experts debate how quickly autonomous vehicles (AVs) will take over our roads, there is little doubt they will be a fixture in the next decade. Fully self-driving vehicles are predicted to substantially reduce the accident rate, given the dominant role of human error in most crashes today.

But there still will be accidents. And where there are accidents, there are plaintiffs’ lawyers. But who will these lawyers sue, and how will the defendants insure their liabilities?

We explore these questions in our article for WardsAuto. The full article is available, here.