In an article I wrote for the North Bay Business Journal’s Vine Notes column, I review the issues around insurance coverage for smoke taint damage to grapes and wine. Insurers’ attempted clean lines of distinction can quickly become hazy when it comes to smoke taint. Now that we are just over two years past
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 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 rule. Second, 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.…
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.…
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.…
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.…
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…
Before worrying about an insurance claim, first ensure that you and your family, including pets and extended family, have their immediate needs met, particularly medical needs. When you are ready to begin the recovery process, we have outlined a few steps for you to take in working with your insurers to ensure that you receive the maximum benefits under any applicable policies.…
The California wildfire season is well underway. Only a year ago, the Lake County fire destroyed hundreds of homes, thousands of acres and threatened vineyards and wineries. A recent report on climate change predicts that wildfires in the western U.S. and Canada will become more frequent and severe. And the Napa earthquake — only two years ago as of Aug. 24 — reminded us of another constant danger for California residents and businesses, particularly those with costly products like wine in tanks, barrels and bottles.
In the face of these risks, you can take steps now to be sure you have the right insurance and are prepared to get the most out of it if the worst happens.
As Bay Area residents prepared for thousands of football fans and media to descend on their region for the Super Bowl, one began to hear the sorts of rumblings that typically precede big events. Traffic will be terrible. Parking will be worse. Good luck getting a table at a restaurant. Oh, and good luck finding a place a sleep if you’re from out of town.
Former Mayor Willie Brown had advice for the naysayers: Rent your house on Airbnb! “Everyone is going to make a killing, including the private citizens who are smart enough to schedule a vacation paid for by Airbnb’ing their homes.”
Last weekend’s Napa earthquake served as a wake-up call for everyone living and working in the Greater Bay Area. As with all natural disasters, after the immediate clean-up is over the analysis will begin as to how to make buildings safer and how to prevent and minimize injuries and damage.
But if you have a business that was affected by the earthquake, now is the time to be looking at your insurance policies, even while you are still sweeping up the debris and are wondering what the extent of the damage is.
If you have earthquake coverage, your insurance company can be an important resource. Insurers have experience handling disasters of all types. They have a large pool of consultants and experts who can help minimize the effect of the earthquake on your business – by providing resources to help with clean-up, estimating the extent of the damage, finding contractors quickly, and generally helping you through the crisis period.
However, insurance companies don’t know your business or your premises nearly as well as you do. Insurance adjusters – particularly in times of disasters when they are flooded with claims – will sometimes try to impose “cookie-cutter” solutions on unique situations. This could be especially true in the Wine Country, given the unique nature of the items damaged, such as historic buildings or high-quality wine. An area such as Napa, replete with wineries and specialty boutiques, restaurants and businesses, is ripe for coverage disputes over the value of damaged property, even after the scope of the damage has been agreed.