An insurance carrier has declined to defend a claim asserted against its insured, arguably without meeting its obligation to investigate the claim. For whatever reason— a change in personnel, loss of a file, or some other motivation—the carrier has done little, if anything, to investigate the claim tendered to it: no Google search, no phone calls, and very little factual investigation other than the information tendered by the insured. The carrier has, however, relied on the plain language of the policy, and the few facts of which it was aware supported its denial.

But when a court later finds that the carrier’s coverage position was wrong— the facts in existence created a potential for coverage and hence triggered the carri­er’s duty to defend—the insured may argue that its carrier’s failure to investigate sup­ports a finding that it breached the implied warranty of good faith and fair dealing; that is, the insurer acted in bad faith. Continue Reading The Ramifications of a Less-Than-Thorough Investigation

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. Continue Reading Disparagement Allegations May Trigger Valuable Coverage