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Erica Villanueva has extensive experience handling claims under a variety of insurance policies, including general liability, directors’ and officers’ liability, aviation, employment practices liability, property and business interruption policies.  She works with policyholders to ensure that their claims are properly presented to insurers, in order to obtain the maximum possible insurance recovery.  Ms. Villanueva advocates on behalf of her clients to resolve any coverage disputes that may arise during the course of a claim, taking a practical and proactive approach to negotiation with insurers.  In cases where a negotiated resolution is not possible, Ms. Villanueva litigates insurance coverage disputes.  She has substantial coverage litigation experience, both at the trial and appellate levels.

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

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.
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shutterstock_113739760-Protection Level HighDirectors’ and officers’ liability insurance is a key resource for funding defense and settlement of claims without depleting the insureds’ assets. Private company D&O insurance, in particular, can provide exceptionally broad coverage to the company, its individual directors, officers, and sometimes even employees against shareholder litigation and derivative actions, criminal and regulatory investigations, and other

When a venture capital or private equity firm invests in a portfolio company (PC) and places a general partner on the PC’s board, they typically require that the PC agree to defend and indemnify the board member in any litigation arising out of their board service, and to purchase directors’ and officers’ liability insurance. However, the D&O insurance requirements are typically quite vague, and some firms may be surprised to learn of key gaps in the PC’s coverage. These gaps are usually discovered when the VC/PE firm needs the coverage most – i.e., after a lawsuit has been filed, naming their board member as a defendant. Here are two examples I’ve come across in representing venture capital and private equity firms:
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When a new company moves to secure funding and formalize operations, insurance is often an afterthought. But with a bit of effort, emerging companies can obtain strong insurance protection, maximize their existing coverage, and make themselves more attractive to future investors and other partners. Emerging companies should focus in particular on commercial general liability, data

I co-moderated a panel discussion at the Bar Association of San Francisco entitled “Insurance Issues In The Sharing Economy.” We had a lively and informative panel discussion between Kate Sampson, Managing Director at Marsh Risk & Insurance Services (and former VP of Insurance Solutions at Lyft), Chris Shultz of the California Department of Insurance, and Dan Wade of United Policyholders, a consumer advocacy group.
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On Wednesday, September 30, from 12:00 to 1:30 pm I will be co-moderating a panel discussion on insurance issues that arise in the context of mediating complex civil cases. Panelists will include Hon. William Bettinelli (Ret.), mediator at JAMS, and Daniel Purcell, Partner at Keker & Van Nest. The panel will be held at the

In June, I blogged about County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court, 235 Cal. App. 4th 1154 (2015). In that case, the California Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District) concluded that legal defense bills qualified as privileged attorney-client communications, and therefore need not be produced in response to a California Public

Recently, the California Court of Appeal decided County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court, 235 Cal. App. 4th 1154 (2015), a case considering whether the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department could be required to produce legal defense bills in response to a California Public Records Act request.  While not an insurance case, the case could have implications for a common practice in the insurance context: submitting defense bills to the insurer.

The Board of Supervisors court held that attorney billing statements are “confidential communications” within the meaning of California Evidence Code Section 952, and therefore their production could not be compelled.  Significantly, the court held that the LA County Sheriff could not be required to simply redact portions of the attorney time descriptions that reflected attorney opinions or advice.  Indeed, the court concluded that a communication between attorney and client, arising in the course of representation for which the client sought legal advice, need not include “legal opinion or advice” at all in order to qualify as a privileged communication.  Because the bills were, by definition, an attorney-client communication, they were privileged in their entirety.

This new ruling presents a conundrum for California insureds.  An insurance company that is footing the bill for the defense of a lawsuit will of course demand to see the bills, and as a practical matter it is unrealistic to expect that the insurer will pay them without being able to review the descriptions.  In situations where the insurer is defending without a reservation of rights, the insured's and the insurer's interests are completely aligned and the two are effectively joint clients.  But by providing the defense bills to an insurer who has reserved its right to deny coverage – or who has not yet taken a coverage position at all – is the insured waiving privilege?  If the plaintiff in the underlying lawsuit demands that the insured produce “all communications with its insurer,” could the insured then be required to produce its legal bills to plaintiff?


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