General Liability Policies

Our lives and the products and devices we use become more dependent on data by the day. As a result, cyberattacks and data breaches present everchanging risks to companies and individuals, and the importance of applicable insurance never has been more important. While companies historically sought coverage for losses under traditional CGL, D&O, E&O, commercial crime, and business interruption policies, their mixed results––coupled with new exclusions singling out electronic data––have led to increasing need for cyber-specific coverages. However, as evidenced by Minnesota District Court’s recent decision in Target Corporation v. ACE American Insurance Company, 2022 WL 848095 (D. Minn. Mar. 22, 2022), CGL policies still may be in play where damages result from the inability to use tangible property.
Continue Reading Continuing Use of CGL Policies to Cover Data Breach Losses

Since Illinois passed its Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in 2008, there has been a proliferation of class action lawsuits filed pursuant to the statute. BIPA generally bars private entities from collecting, capturing, purchasing, receiving, or otherwise obtaining a person’s biometric information without obtaining that person’s advance, informed consent (see 740 ILCS 14/15(b)), and grants a private right of action to individuals who are “aggrieved” by a violation of the statute, entitling them to recover liquidated or actual damages as well as attorneys’ fees and costs (see 740 ILCS 14/20).

The Illinois courts are sorting out the question of the availability of insurance coverage for such BIPA suits under Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies. Of course, the standard CGL definition of covered “personal and advertising injury” includes “oral or written publication of material that violates a person’s right of privacy.” In May of 2021, an Illinois Supreme Court case, West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. v. Krishna Schaumburg Tan, Inc., 183 N.E.3d 47 (2021), addressed the threshold question of whether BIPA claims fall within this basic definition. The court agreed that the gravamen of such claims is invasion of privacy, and that the purpose of the statute is to prevent such invasions. Krishna also rejected the insurer’s argument that the policyholder’s alleged conduct did not constitute an “oral or written publication” because biometric data was merely collected and given to a single third party (a service provider for the policyholder). The court ruled that even providing the information to one other party is a “publication”; the dissemination need not be widespread.
Continue Reading Illinois Courts Largely Favor Coverage for BIPA Cases Under CGL Policies

In Verizon Communications Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa.[1] the Delaware Superior Court ruled that Verizon was entitled to a defense under its D&O policy for fraudulent transfer claims. Although the decision relies on unique facts and specific policy language, it provides guidance on how to exploit minor but critical differences in policy language to expand the company’s coverage beyond claims involving securities fraud.

The opinion also rejected the insurers’ efforts to limit coverage under a separate policy, based on their contention that the subsidiary out of which the liabilities arose was not a subsidiary when the policy was purchased. And finally, it handed policyholders a practical and valuable gift of universal application, holding that an insurer who wrongfully refuses to defend a claim cannot contest the reasonableness of the fees incurred by the policyholder to defend the case.

Whether or not it is successfully challenged on appeal, the Verizon decision is an important reminder not to make assumptions as to what is or isn’t covered under any type of insurance policy. Coverage depends on the particular language of the policy under review and the particular facts for which claims are sought.
Continue Reading In Verizon Decision Careful Review of Insurance Policies Expands Coverage

Though much of the conversation regarding insurance coverage for COVID-19-related losses has focused on the potential for business interruption-type coverage (see prior discussion here), insureds should not overlook the potential that COVID risks trigger other types of coverage. For example, as previously discussed here, some insureds may seek coverage under D&O policies should they face securities and derivative-type claims.

In addition to the forms of coverage we’ve previously blogged about, businesses who have continued operations during the pandemic as well as those considering whether, when, and how to reopen their businesses in the coming weeks and months should consider whether they will be able to access coverage under their GL policies for some COVID-related claims. For example, companies that continue or restart operations in some form during the pandemic may anticipate claims from individuals who allegedly contracted the virus while interacting with that company’s employees or independent contractors. While those claims will likely face significant causation issues (will plaintiffs be able to substantiate transmission from a particular source though some combination of location tracking data and genetic testing of the virus?), these kinds of claims can be costly to defend and may create significant risks for certain businesses.
Continue Reading COVID-19 Exposure and GL Coverage: Issues for Personal Injury Claims

A recent California appellate court decision found that a wage and hour exclusion in an Employment Practices Liability Insurance (“EPLI”) policy did not bar coverage for claims under California Labor Code sections 2800 and 2802 alleging failure to reimburse expenses. S. Cal. Pizza Co., LLC v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London Subscribing to Policy No. 11EPL-20208, Case No. G056243, 2019 WL 4572859 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 27, 2019), as modified on denial of reh’g (Sept. 20, 2019). This is a significant decision. It gives policyholders an argument that insurers must defend wage and hour suits that include covered allegations of failure to reimburse expenses, as the court in Southern California Pizza found. 
Continue Reading Reimbursement of Employment-Related Expenses Is Not a “Wage and Hour” Claim Within the Meaning of EPLI Exclusion

In Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Company, the California Supreme Court resolved two previously open questions in insurance law: (1) it concluded that the notice-prejudice rule[1] is a fundamental public policy of California, and (2) it concluded that the notice-prejudice rule applies to consent provisions, but only in first-party policies.

This decision provides three primary lessons to insureds. First, when a first-party insurer cites a strict notice provision as a complete bar to coverage, a California policyholder should respond by citing the notice-prejudice rule, even if the policy selects the law of a state that does not follow the notice-prejudice ruleSecond, the insured should do the same if a first-party insurer cites a consent provision as a basis to limit coverage for otherwise-covered expenses. In both cases, the notice-prejudice rule may override the choice of law provision and preserve coverage unless the insurer was actually and substantially prejudiced by the delayed notice/consent. Third, in the case of third-party policies, the insured should continue to promptly notify the insurer in the event of a claim and should seek consent before incurring otherwise-covered expenses. The insured should not rely on the notice-prejudice rule to potentially save coverage where it delays notice or fails to seek consent for expenses under a third-party policy.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Ruling Clarifies That the Notice-Prejudice Rule Is a Fundamental Public Policy That May Override Choice of Law Provisions

Massachusetts Appeals Court Gets It Right – Mostly

Hot on the heels of the Federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in MTI, Inc. v. Employers Insurance Company of Wausau, __ F.3d __, 2019 WL 321423 (10th Cir. 2019) (about which I wrote earlier this month), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts also found that the phrase “that particular part” as used in exclusions j(5) and j(6) in the CGL policy must be applied narrowly. In All America Ins. Co. v. Lampasona Concrete Corp., 95 Mass. App. Ct. 79 (2019), the court held that damage caused to an underlying vapor barrier and a tile and carpet finish applied on top of the concrete floor slab poured by Lampasona was not excluded from coverage by the j(6) exclusion in the Lampasona’s policy. The court found that Lampasona did not install the vapor barrier or the tile/carpet, so they were not “that particular part” on which Lampasona was working.

Continue Reading “That Particular Part” – Yet More

Insurers often claim “economic damages” are not covered under a standard commercial general liability (CGL) policy. The Fourth District Court of Appeal’s decision in Thee Sombrero, Inc. v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 28 Cal. App. 5th 729, 736 (2018) review and request to depublish denied (Jan. 30, 2019), demonstrates that “loss of use” can be measured by “economic damages”—i.e., loss in profit or diminution in value—so long as they are tied to a property interest.

In Thee Sombrero, Inc., the insured’s negligent security services resulted in the revocation of Thee Sombrero’s permit to use its property as a night club after a patron was allowed to enter without passing through the metal detector, resulting in a fatal shooting. Thee Sombrero sued the security company, and obtained a default judgment. Thee Sombrero then pursued Scottsdale to satisfy the judgment. The trial court found in favor of Scottsdale, but the Court of Appeal reversed, finding that “the loss of the ability to use the property as a nightclub is, by definition, a ‘loss of use’ of ‘tangible property.’ It defies common sense to argue otherwise.” Id.
Continue Reading Damages for Permit Revocation Constitute Covered “Loss of Use”

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