General Liability Insurance

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.


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In an unpublished decision, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the Central District of California’s interpretation of the related acts provision in a professional liability policy,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.
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In November, Tyler wrote about insurance issues raised by both the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020. California’s governor Jerry Brown signed two other cyber-related laws in September, which will also go into effect on January 1, 2020 – Assembly Bill 1906 and Senate Bill 327, which address security concerns relating to devices that are capable of connecting to the internet – the so-called Internet of Things or “IoT”. See California Civil Code 1798.91.04(a) et seq.

The bills largely mirror each other and, put very simply, require manufacturers of devices that are capable of being connected to the internet to equip them with “reasonable” security features that are both appropriate to the device and require a user to generate a new means of authentication before access is granted to the device for the first time. Technologists are debating whether the laws are good or bad, and if good, whether they go far enough. Regardless, the law will become effective and manufacturers of IoT devices will have to comply with them. The law does not provide for a private right of action; it permits the state’s Attorney General to enforce its provisions.

The new California law applies to all connected devices sold or offered for sale in California. Because California is such a large market, this likely means that all such devices sold in North America and Europe will comply with California’s regulations, and older, less secure devices will be diverted to countries with fewer regulations.


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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

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---attorney-clientAttorney 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.
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Blog-Image---Drone

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