Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Insurance Law
Team Industrial Services v. Zurich American Insurance Company, et al.
Plaintiff Team Industrial Services, Inc. (Team) suffered a $222 million judgment against it in a wrongful-death lawsuit arising out of a steam-turbine failure in June 2018 at a Westar Energy, Inc. (Westar) power plant. Team sought liability coverage from Westar, Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich), and two other insurance companies, arguing that it was, or should have been, provided protection by Westar’s Owner-Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP) through insurance policies issued by Zurich and the two other insurers. Team’s claims derived from the fact that its liability for the failure at the Westar power plant arose from work that had previously been performed by Furmanite America, Inc. (Furmanite), which had coverage under Westar’s OCIP. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants, and Team appealed. Not persuaded by Team's arguments for reversal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Team Industrial Services v. Zurich American Insurance Company, et al." on Justia Law
Monarch Casino & Resort v. Affiliated FM Insurance Company
Monarch Casino & Resort, Inc. appealed a district court’s grant of Affiliated FM Insurance Company’s (“AFM”) motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, which denied Monarch coverage under AFM’s all-risk policy provision, business-interruption provision, and eight other additional-coverage provisions. Monarch also moved the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to certify a question of state law or issue a stay. Monarch presented AFM with claims incurred through business interruption losses from COVID-19 and government orders directing Monarch to close its casinos. AFM denied certain coverage on the ground that COVID-19 did not cause physical loss of or damage to property. Monarch sued for breach of contract, bad faith breach of insurance contract, and violations of state law. The Tenth Circuit denied Monarch’s motions to certify a question of state law and issue a stay. And it affirmed the district court’s judgment: (1) AFM’s policy had a Contamination Exclusion provision that excludes all-risk coverage and business-interruption coverage from the COVID-19 virus; and (2) Monarch could not obtain coverage for physical loss or damage caused by COVID-19 under AFM’s all-risk provision, business-interruption provision, or eight additional-coverage provisions because the virus could not cause physical loss or damage and no other policy provisions distinguished this case. Accordingly, Monarch could not obtain the coverage that the district court denied. View "Monarch Casino & Resort v. Affiliated FM Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Dyno Nobel v. Steadfast Insurance Company
Explosives manufacturer Dyno Nobel tendered an action to its commercial general liability insurance policyholder, Steadfast Insurance Company (“Steadfast”), after being sued in Missouri for damages caused by the release of a nitric oxide plume from one of its Missouri plants. Steadfast denied the claim based on the insurance policy’s clauses precluding indemnification and defense of pollution-related bodily injury actions. Dyno Nobel thereafter filed an action in Utah state court seeking a declaratory judgment that Steadfast had a duty to indemnify and defend against this action under an endorsement titled “Vermont Changes – Pollution” (“Vermont Endorsement”). Contrary to Coverages A, B, and C in the insurance policy, the Vermont Endorsement would have required Steadfast to defend and indemnify against pollution-related bodily injury claims up to an aggregate amount of $3 million. Steadfast removed the action to federal court, and the federal district court entered judgment for Steadfast, concluding the Vermont Endorsement applied only to claims with a nexus to Vermont. Dyno Nobel appealed. After its review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, finding the plain language of the insurance contract did not cover Dyno Nobel’s claim in the underlying action. View "Dyno Nobel v. Steadfast Insurance Company" on Justia Law
American Southwest Mortgage Corp., et al. v. Continental Casualty Company
American Southwest Mortgage Corporation and American Southwest Mortgage Funding Corporation (together, “the Lenders”) loaned money to First Mortgage Company, LLC. Robinson Gary Johnson & Associates, PLLC (the “Auditor”) audited First Mortgage’s finances for several years. The Auditor’s annual reports failed to note that First Mortgage was committing fraud. The Lenders sued the Auditor, and the Auditor’s insurer, Continental Casualty, Inc., defended the suit. The parties settled some claims. The district court held that each negligently conducted audit report was not “interrelated” to each other, while also holding that the Lenders’ claims on each audit in the same year were “interrelated.” Both sides appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part. The district court erred by not finding each audit here interrelated. "That is because, under the insurance policy, each audit is logically connected by common facts and circumstances relating to the Auditor’s negligence." The Court affirmed that the Lenders’ claims pertaining to each individual audit were “interrelated,” finding the policy clarified that all claims arising out of the same act—here, each audit—were interrelated regardless of the quantity or type of claimants. View "American Southwest Mortgage Corp., et al. v. Continental Casualty Company" on Justia Law
Posted in: Insurance Law
McAnulty v. McAnulty, et al.
Husband Steven McAnulty was married twice: once to Plaintiff Elizabeth McAnulty, and once to Defendant Melanie McAnulty. Husband's first marriage ended in divorce; the second ended with his death. Husband’s only life-insurance policy (the Policy) named Defendant as the beneficiary. But the Missouri divorce decree between Plaintiff and Husband required Husband to procure and maintain a $100,000 life-insurance policy with Plaintiff listed as sole beneficiary until his maintenance obligation to her was lawfully terminated (which never happened). Plaintiff sued Defendant and the issuer of the Policy, Standard Insurance Company (Standard), claiming unjust enrichment and seeking the imposition on her behalf of a constructive trust on $100,000 of the insurance proceeds. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff appealed. By stipulation of the parties, Standard was dismissed with respect to this appeal. The only question to be resolved was whether Plaintiff stated a claim. Resolving that issue required the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to predict whether the Colorado Supreme Court would endorse Illustration 26 in Comment g to § 48 of the Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment (Am. L. Inst. 2011) (the Restatement (Third)), which would recognize a cause of action in essentially the same circumstances. Because the Tenth Circuit predicted the Colorado Supreme Court would endorse Illustration 26, the Court held Plaintiff has stated a claim of unjust enrichment, and accordingly reversed the previous dismissal of her case. View "McAnulty v. McAnulty, et al." on Justia Law
Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas v. PHL Variable Insurance Company
In 2007, Defendant PHL Variable Insurance Company issued two life-insurance policies to Plaintiff Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas, Inc. on the lives of Elwyn Liebl and John Killeen. Both policies guaranteed Plaintiff, as their named beneficiary, $400,000 upon the insureds’ death. Between 2013 and 2014, Defendant sent Plaintiff grace notices for both policies and demanded premium payments. Plaintiff believed the demanded premium payments were too high and that the grace notices were defective and untimely under the policies. So Plaintiff did not pay the requested premiums. Because Plaintiff did not pay the requested premiums, Defendant sent cancellation notices, informing Plaintiff that both policies had lapsed. In 2016, the insureds died. Plaintiff sought payment of benefits under both policies. Defendant declined, believing that it terminated Plaintiff’s policies for nonpayment of premiums two to three years earlier. In 2020, Plaintiff sued Defendant in the District of Kansas for failure to pay the death benefits under both policies. Defendant moved to dismiss both claims, arguing that Kansas’s five-year statute of limitations for breach of contract actions bars them. According to Defendant, the statute of limitations began to run in 2013 and 2014 when it informed Plaintiff that it was terminating the policies. In response, Plaintiff asserted that Defendant first breached both insurance contracts when it failed to pay the benefits upon the insureds’ death in 2016 because Defendant never successfully terminated the policies. The district court agreed with Defendant and dismissed Plaintiff’s claims as untimely. The appeal this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on a question of when the statute of limitations for a breach of contract claim alleging the wrongful termination of a life insurance contract began to run under Kansas law: if the limitations period began when Defendant acted to terminate Plaintiff’s policies, the district court correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint; if the limitations period began when Plaintiff’s death benefits became due, the district court erred. Finding the district court did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's claims, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas v. PHL Variable Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Clinton, et al. v. Security Benefit Life
Plaintiffs wereconsumers who sued Defendant Security Benefit Life Insurance Company under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), and state law, alleging Security Benefit developed a fraudulent scheme to design and market certain annuity products. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review centered on whether the district court properly dismissed Plaintiffs’ first amended complaint without prejudice for lack of particularity and plausibility in pleading fraud. Because the Tenth Circuit concluded Plaintiffs alleged facially plausible fraud claims with the particularity required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b), the district court erred in granting Security Benefit’s motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). View "Clinton, et al. v. Security Benefit Life" on Justia Law
Sagome v. Cincinnati Insurance Company
Sagome, Inc.’s restaurant, L’Hostaria, suffered significant financial losses from reduced customer traffic and government lockdowns and restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. It sought to recover under its comprehensive general insurance policy. And like many insurers, The Cincinnati Insurance Company denied coverage because the virus did not impose physical loss or damage as required by the policy. Sagome sued, but the district court concluded its financial losses were not covered. Addressing Sagome’s coverage under Colorado law, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and affirmed: COVID-19 did not cause Sagome to suffer a qualifying loss because there was never any direct physical loss or damage to L’Hostaria. View "Sagome v. Cincinnati Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Evanston Insurance Company v. Desert State Life Management, et al.
Evanston Insurance Company appealed the judgment following a bench trial on an insurance-coverage dispute. After determining that Evanston failed to timely rescind the policy and that a policy exclusion did not apply, the district court required Evanston to continue defending Desert State Life Management against a class action arising from its former CEO’s embezzlement scheme. Though the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that rescission was untimely, it disagreed about the likely application of New Mexico law on applying policy exclusions. Judgment was thus affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Evanston Insurance Company v. Desert State Life Management, et al." on Justia Law
Wells Fargo Bank v. Stewart Title Guaranty Company
Wells Fargo Bank made a loan to Talisker Finance, Inc. Under the loan agreement, Talisker gave Wells Fargo a security interest in three parcels of land owned by Talisker’s affiliates. To ensure that Talisker’s affiliates had good title to the parcels, Wells Fargo bought title insurance from Stewart Title Guaranty Company. Talisker defaulted, but it couldn’t deliver good title to part of the land promised as collateral. The default triggered Wells Fargo’s right to compensation under the title insurance policy. Under that policy, Stewart owed Wells Fargo for the diminution in the value of the collateral. But the amount of the diminution was complicated by the presence of multiple parcels. The district court concluded that the lost parcel didn’t affect the value of the other parcels. After review, the Tenth Circuit concurred: because their values remained constant, the district court properly found that the diminution was simply the value of the collateral that Talisker’s affiliates didn’t own. View "Wells Fargo Bank v. Stewart Title Guaranty Company" on Justia Law