Articles Posted in Insurance Law

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In 2007, undercover producers from NBC Universal, Inc., attended and surreptitiously recorded a seminar presented by plaintiff-appellant Brokers’ Choice of America, Inc. to teach insurance agents how to sell annuities to seniors. NBC used excerpts and information from the seminar in a “Dateline NBC” episode. Brokers’ Choice and its founder Tyrone Clark (collectively, “BCA”) sued for defamation. This appeal concerned the district court’s dismissal of the amended complaint after it compared the seminar recording with the episode and concluded the Dateline program was substantially true. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed because the Dateline episode was not materially false. View "Brokers' Choice of America v. NBC Universal" on Justia Law

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Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company (“Philadelphia”) and Lexington Insurance Company (“Lexington”) insured the same school building that suffered fire damage. In a declaratory judgment action, they disputed their relative responsibilities to pay for the loss. The district court ordered Philadelphia to pay 54 percent and Lexington to pay 46 percent of the approximately $6 million loss. Lexington appealed, arguing it should have no obligation to pay. Philadelphia cross-appealed, arguing Lexington should have paid more. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's allocation between the insurers. View "Philadelphia Indemnity v. Lexington Insurance" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a property damage claim filed by the Hayes Family Trust with its insurer, State Farm Fire & Casualty. When the parties could not agree on the amount of loss, Hayes invoked an appraisal process provided by the policy to calculate the loss incurred. After Hayes sought the district court's assistance with the appointment of an umpire, the parties participated in the appraisal process, which resulted in a unanimous award. State Farm paid the balance of that award, and Hayes accepted payment. But despite State Farm's payment, at Hayes's request, the district court confirmed the award and entered judgment in favor of Hayes. Hayes promptly moved for an award of prejudgment interest, attorney's fees, and costs under a prevailing party statute. In response, State Farm moved to vacate or amend the judgment. Finding that the parties settled any dispute over the amount of loss, the court agreed with State Farm and vacated its order confirming the appraisal award and the judgment. Hayes appealed the order vacating judgment in an attempt to recover prejudgment interest, fees, and costs. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "In re: Hayes Family Trust" on Justia Law

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Terrill Graf, bought his fiancee a van for her 50th birthday. Celebrating the birthday and new purchase, Graf drank liquor and then gathered four friends in the van. Plaintiff Wendy Peden was one of those friends. She says that she expected Graf only to show off the van and to photograph the group. But Graf drove away with his friends in the van, crashing it, and causing serious injuries to Peden. She obtained $240,000 in insurance benefits. But Peden claimed more under her insurance policy for underinsured-motorist benefits. The insurer (State Farm) initially denied the claim, but ultimately paid her an additional $350,000, the maximum amount that she could receive under the underinsured-motorist coverage. Peden sued State Farm under Colorado’s common law and statutory law, claiming an unreasonable denial or delay in paying benefits. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review was whether a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that State Farm unreasonably denied or delayed payment of benefits. The district court answered “no.” But the Tenth Circuit disagreed after careful consideration of the facts of this case, and reversed the grant of summary judgment to State Farm. The denial of Peden’s motion for partial summary judgment was vacated, and the entire matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Peden v. State Farm Mutual Auto Ins Co" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) sought to recover on a financial institution crime bond and appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant-Appellee Kansas Bankers Surety Co. (KBS) and the subsequent denial of reconsideration. The district court held that the underlying bank, the New Frontier Bank of Greeley, Colorado, (Bank) had failed to submit a timely and complete proof of loss, thereby barring FDIC’s recovery on the bond. Finding no error in the district court's decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "FDIC v. Kansas Bankers Surety Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellee Century Surety Company (“Century”) issued a commercial lines policy to Defendant-Appellant Shayona Investment, LLC covering commercial property and business income coverage. Shayona submitted claims, Century paid them, and then Century sought a declaratory judgment in the district court as to whether the claims were fraudulent. At trial, the jury found in favor of Century, awarding it both the amount the company paid Shayona under the policy and the sum it spent investigating the claims. Shayona appealed, arguing that the standard of proof the court instructed the jury to use was wrong. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of judgment on the verdict. View "Century Surety Co. v. Shayona Investment" on Justia Law

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A mudslide destroyed a commercial building in Boulder, Colorado, owned by Paros Properties LLC and insured under a policy issued by Colorado Casualty Insurance Company. Paros filed an insurance claim but the Insurer denied payment because damage from mudslides was excluded from policy coverage. Paros then filed a state-court suit seeking payment under the Policy and damages for bad-faith breach of the insurance contract. It argued that the mudslide caused the building to explode, bringing the incident within the scope of an explosion exception to the Policy’s mudslide exclusion. The Insurer removed the action to federal court, which granted summary judgment to the Insurer. On appeal Paros argued: (1) that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the Insurer’s removal from state court was untimely; and (2) that the district court erred on the merits in holding that there was no coverage. After its review, the Tenth Circuit held that the notice of removal was too late. But because the district court correctly ruled on the merits and the jurisdictional requirements were satisfied at that time, the Court affirmed the judgment below rather than burden the state court and the parties by requiring relitigation. View "Paros Properties v. Colorado Casualty Ins Co" on Justia Law

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Zachery Edens was killed in when an oncoming car turned in front of his motorcycle. David Edens, Zachery's father and the Chief Executive Officer of Edens Structural Solutions LLC (Edens LLC), and Rhonda Edens, Zachery's mother, sent a demand letter to The Netherlands Insurance Company, claiming that Zachery was an insured under Edens LLC’s Netherlands insurance policy and demanding $1,000,000 in underinsured motorist benefits. After Netherlands denied coverage, David, Rhonda, and Edens LLC sued Netherlands. On summary judgment, the district court concluded that David was an insured under the policy because he was an executive officer of Edens LLC, and that Zachery was an insured as David's family member. Despite this, because David and Rhonda Edens owned Zachery's motorcycle, the district court concluded that the Netherlands policy didn’t cover his accident. David, Rhonda and Edens LLC appealed, arguing, among other things, that the policy’s coverage terms were ambiguous and should be construed in their favor. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Edens v. Netherlands Insurance" on Justia Law

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ACE Fire Underwriters Insurance Company appeals the district court’s declaration that a policy ACE issued offered total coverage up to $2 million for an accident involving two insured vehicles: a tractor and trailer. The trailer detached from the tractor. The driver pulled off the roadway to reattach, then hoped to make a quick u-turn and continue down the road. But before he could complete the turn, another vehicle collided with the trailer, killing the vehicle's driver. As the insurer of the tractor and the trailer, ACE reached a settlement with the Estate of the vehicle's driver. But the parties conditioned the settlement upon litigating the available limits of the policy. ACE maintained that the policy provisions limited its liability to $1 million per accident, regardless of the number of covered autos involved. The Estate, on the other hand, insisted that ACE’s liability under the policy was $1 million per covered auto involved in each accident. That interpretation of the policy would cap ACE’s liability in this case at $2 million because, according to the Estate, the tractor and the trailer were both involved in the accident. Under the terms of the settlement, ACE initially paid the Estate $1 million. But it agreed to pay it an additional $550,000 if the court accepted the Estate’s interpretation of the policy. Because the Tenth Circuit agreed with ACE that the policy instead limits its liability to only $1 million, it reversed. View "ACE Fire Underwriters v. Romero" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case were two provisions of a title insurance policy underwritten by Fidelity National Title Insurance Company. One provision insured against unmarketability of title, and the other insured against a lack of access to property. The owner of the policy, Woody Creek Ventures, LLC, contended that both provisions covered losses it sustained when it learned, after purchasing two parcels of land, that one parcel lacked permanent access. And although Fidelity obtained a 30-year right-of-way grant to that parcel, Woody Creek argued Fidelity failed to cure the lack of access and the title remained unmarketable. After review, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court’s conclusions that: (1) the policy did not insure a permanent right of access; (2) the right-of-way cured the lack of access to the parcel; and (3) the lack of permanent access did not render Woody Creek’s title unmarketable. View "Fidelity National Title v. Woody Creek Ventures" on Justia Law