Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's award of $64 million to Utica. In this case, the jury found that the Fireman's Fund breached its obligations under reinsurance contracts issued to Utica.  The court agreed with Fireman's Fund that the reinsurance contracts, by their terms, demonstrate as a matter of law that Fireman's Fund did not owe to Utica the obligations allegedly breached. The court explained that the umbrella policies unambiguously define their attachment point by reference to the underlying limits of liability "as stated in the Schedule[s]." Therefore, where the losses in question did not exceed the limits stated for bodily injury in the Schedules, Fireman's Fund had no obligation under the reinsurance contracts to pay for those losses. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Utica Mutual Insurance Co. v. Fireman's Fund Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit certified a question of insurance law to the New York Court of Appeals: Must a general liability insurance carrier defend an insured in an action alleging discrimination under a failure-to-accommodate theory? View "Brooklyn Center for Psychotherapy, Inc. v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss after the Court of Appeals answered the certified question. In light of the Court of Appeals' holding that section 230(11)(b) of the New York Public Health Law does not create a private right of action for bad faith and malicious reporting to the Office of Professional Medical Conduct to the New York Court of Appeals, the court held that plaintiff's section 230(11)(b) claim was properly dismissed. View "Haar v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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Atlantic sought a declaratory judgment that the insurance policy it had issued to Coastal was void ab initio or, in the alternative, that there was no coverage for the loss of the barge or damage to an adjacent pier. District Court Judge Wexler passed away prior to issuing his findings of fact and conclusions of law. The case was transferred to Judge Azrack, who, after no party requested the recall of any witness under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 63, issued findings of fact and conclusions of law in her role as successor judge and entered judgment finding Atlantic liable to Coastal under the terms of the policy. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a)(6), factual findings of successor judges who have certified their familiarity with the record are subject to the "clearly erroneous" standard of review. The Second Circuit also held that, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 63, a successor judge is under no independent obligation to recall witnesses unless requested by one of the parties. In this case, the court found no reversible error in Judge Azrack's findings of fact and conclusions of law, including findings that Coastal did not breach its duty of uberrimae fidei, and thus the policy was not void; Atlantic failed to prove that the vessel was unseaworthy; the loss of the vessel was due to a "peril of the sea" and was covered by the policy; Coastal was entitled to damages for contractual payments withheld by its contractor for repairs to a pier; and Coastal proved its damages using only a summary spreadsheet of invoices, as evidence. View "Atlantic Specialty Insurance Co. v. Coastal Environmental Group Inc." on Justia Law

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The insurer appealed from the district court's judgment in favor of the adjuster. At issue was whether the district court erred in overturning the jury verdict and granting judgment as a matter of law in favor of the adjuster on the basis of insufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's conclusion that the statute of limitations was tolled such that the insurer's claim was timely filed. The Second Circuit certified a question of law to the Connecticut Supreme Court regarding the contours of the doctrine that tolls a limitation period because of a continuing course of conduct. The state court responded that the evidence was not legally sufficient to toll the statute of limitations on this factual record. Accordingly, because the state court's decision resolved the controlling question of Connecticut law, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Evanston Insurance Co. v. William Kramer & Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying GEICO and CCC's motions to compel appraisal in a suit brought by a GEICO policyholder. The court held that it had jurisdiction over this appeal because it had appellate jurisdiction over an order denying a motion to compel arbitration and the appraisal process in the policy fell within the meaning of arbitration. The court held that appraisal was not appropriate in this case where the dispute concerned a legal issue about the meaning of Regulation 64, which was incorporated into the policy. Finally, the district court denied CCC's motion to compel appraisal because CCC was not a signatory to the policy and had no other contractual relationship with the policyholder. View "Milligan v. CCC Info Services" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). This appeal arose from a multitude of lawsuits filed by Connecticut homeowners whose basements walls were likely constructed with defective concrete manufactured by the now‐defunct J.J. Mottes Company. The court held that the "collapse" provision in the Allstate homeowner's insurance policy in this case did not afford coverage for basement walls that exhibit signs of deterioration but that have not collapsed suddenly, accidentally, and entirely, as required by the policy. Therefore, the horizontal and vertical cracking in plaintiffs' basement walls did not constitute a covered "collapse" under the policy and Allstate did not breach its contract by denying coverage for plaintiffs' claim. View "Valls v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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After Liberty refused to provide High Point a defense pursuant to the terms of insurance policies providing coverage for advertising injuries, the district court granted High Point's motion for partial summary judgment. The underlying litigation stemmed from Buyer's Direct's claim that High Point's Fuzzy Babba slipper infringed on the Snoozie's design patent. The Second Circuit agreed with the district court that as used in the counterclaims and with the additional context of the discovery demands in the underlying litigation, the term "offering for sale" includes advertising, such that Liberty owes High Point a defense. However, the court held that Liberty's duty to provide a defense did not arise until High Point provided Liberty with discovery demands served in the underlying litigation. Therefore, the district court vacated the award of damages and remanded for the district court to determine the amount of legal fees incurred from that point forward. View "High Point Design, LLC v. LM Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment dismissal of all claims in the Second Amended Complaint against defendants in an action stemming from construction projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The court held that MES's claims failed to articulate any support for its accusations that Safeco breached its contractual obligations or engaged in bad faith or tortious conduct. The court noted that the claim that Safeco acted inappropriately by attending the cure meetings was particularly frivolous. In this case, MES failed to identify any good faith basis, in law or on the basis of the agreements at issue, for its assertion that Safeco had no right to take steps to meet its obligations under the surety bonds. The court sua sponte awarded Safeco double costs. View "M.E.S., Inc. v. Safeco Insurance Co. of America" on Justia Law

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Utica and Clearwater appealed from the district court's summary judgment orders regarding Clearwater's obligations to Utica under five facultative reinsurance policies. The Second Circuit held that Clearwater's liability was expense-supplemental because its obligations under the reinsurance contracts followed Utica's expense-supplemental obligations under the umbrella policies. The court vacated and remanded for the district court to determine whether this obligation encompasses certain expenses. The court vacated and remanded the cross-appeal because Utica failed to demonstrate its entitlement to a judgment that Clearwater was bound to indemnify Utica according to Utica's settlement with its insured. View "Utica Mutual Insurance Co. v. Clearwater Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law