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.


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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.
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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.
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image: Are you Covered?Insurance recovery partner Tyler Gerking and I have co-authored an article examining two recent cases from separate California state courts that we feel correctly interpret the phrase “that particular part” as it applies to certain CGL policy exclusions, and apply it in its intended narrow sense. The rulings in Pulte Home Corp. v. American Safety

people talking in front of a courthouseA 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.
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Are you Covered? note pinned to boardThis 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.
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Blog-Image---Are-You-CoveredA 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.
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Blog-Image---DataSecurity

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

In the age of email, text messaging, and Twitter, litigation focused on the sending of unwanted fax messages sounds old-fashioned.  Indeed, it was nearly twenty years ago that Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (47 U.S.C. § 227) (“TCPA”), which provides for damages of $500 per violation for sending fax spam to thousands of recipients at once.  Citing freedom from nuisance, peace and quiet, and conservation of ink and paper, among other reasons, courts across the country have found liability for violations of the TCPA.  Many courts, including the Supreme Courts of  Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts, and courts of appeal in Ohio and Texas, have also found that violations of the TCPA are covered by the “personal and advertising injury” coverage in the standard commercial general liability policy, which typically includes the “oral or written publication of material that violates a person’s right of privacy.” 
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