New Twists In California Contribution Claims Involving SIRs

An intermediate appellate court in California has issued a decision addressing inter-insurer contribution claims for indemnity payments in the context of self-insured retentions (SIRs) that has a couple of new twists worth noting. In Axis Surplus Ins. Co. v. Glencoe Ins. Ltd. (April 11, 2012), the Court of Appeal for the Fourth District affirmed the trial court’s ruling that Axis was entitled to contribution from Glencoe in the amount of 60% of what Axis paid to settle a construction defect claim against their mutual insured, despite the facts that the insured only made its settlement payment that satisfied the Glencoe SIR after Axis made its settlement payment, that Axis did not prove actual covered damages exceeding the total settlement amount, and that both insurers’ policies contained equal-shares allocation “other insurance” wording.

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Do All CGL Policies State Aggregate Limits Only For Products and Completed Operations Hazards?

Not all policies state aggregate limits only for the Products and Completed Operations hazards. Some provide a total limit of liability. For example, many umbrella policies use the following Limits of Liability wording:

The limit of the company’s liability shall not exceed the amount stated in Item 2(a) of the declarations as a result of any one occurrence. The company’s liability shall be further limited to the amount stated in item 2(b) of the declarations in the aggregate for each annual period during the currency of this policy separately in respect of (1) the products hazard; (2) the completed operations hazard; and (3) personal injury by occupational disease sustained by any employees of the insured;

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Does The Wallace & Gale Decision Contradict Typical CGL Insurance Policy Wording?

In its decision In re Wallace & Gale Co., 385 F.3d 820 (4th Cir. 2004), the Fourth Circuit held that the completed operations aggregate in post operations policies applies where (a) initial exposure occurred after the operations were completed, or (b) initial exposure was during operations but injury continues after operations were completed. Policyholder counsel sometimes attempt to dismiss Wallace & Gale as conflicting with the contract wording. But the Fourth Circuit’s completed operations analysis is based on a straightforward application of the insurance contract language.

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