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In early March, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion in Archer Western Contractors v. National Union, No. 15-55648 (filed Mar. 2 2017).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 This is not the first time the Ninth Circuit has issued an unpublished opinion interpreting “that particular part” to apply to the entirety of a project.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
Attorney 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
The 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.
On 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
In two previous posts, on April 19, 2016 and June 21, 2016, we reported on the EquityComp workers’ compensation program offered by Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries Applied Underwriters (Applied) and California Insurance Company (CIC). In the wake of the California Insurance Commissioner’s ruling in Shasta Linen that the EquityComp program is invalid and unenforceable, Applied Underwriters and the Commissioner on September 6, 2016 stipulated to a Cease and Desist Order. The Order can be found online here: Stipulated Consent Cease and Desist Order. Insureds under the program should read it carefully, as it presents them with a number of options. Continue Reading NEW UPDATE: Is Your Workers’ Compensation Program Unlawful?
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?
I wrote an article for Risk Management discussing the Federal Aviation Administration’s long-awaited regulations for commercial drones weighing 55 pounds or less and the insurance coverage available to address drone risks. Insurance is widely available, but careful attention should be paid to differences in policy language. Also, expect insurers to incorporate features of the new regulations in their underwriting approach.
You can read the full article on Risk Management‘s website: FAA Clears Drones for Takeoff
Under a ruling this week from the California Insurance Commissioner, your company may be insured under an unenforceable workers’ compensation program. You may also be entitled to a refund of premiums paid to California Insurance Company (CIC) and Applied Underwriters (Applied), two Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries.
Our April 19, 2016 post discussed a decision from the California Department of Insurance finding that the EquityComp workers’ compensation program sold to Shasta Linen Supply by CIC and Applied is void as an unfiled collateral agreement. CIC appealed the administrative law judge’s decision finding the program void. Shasta appealed the denial of its claim for reimbursement of all sums in excess of actual claims paid. On June 20, 2016, the California Insurance Commissioner affirmed the ALJ’s decisions. Continue Reading UPDATE: Is Your Workers’ Compensation Program Unlawful?