By Max H. Stern and Holden Benon
Late last week, the California Court of Appeal issued another COVID-19 business interruption decision reminding us that creative arguments do not win the day for policyholders in California. The true facts are decisive.
In Best Rest Motel, Inc. v. Sequoia Ins. Co., No. D079927, 2023 WL 2198660 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 24, 2023), the court upheld a trial court’s ruling on summary judgment, reasoning the policyholder could not show that its loss of business income was caused by “direct physical loss of or damage to property,” within the meaning of its commercial multi-peril insurance policy.
The policyholder, San Diego-based Best Rest Motel, Inc. argued that the presence of virus-infected droplets caused physical loss or damage rendering its property incapable of safely providing lodging to guests. Readers familiar with these issues may recognize this as an attempt to plead facts that fall within the “hypothetical scenario” posited in dicta by the court in Inns-by-the-Sea.
Continue reading “California Court of Appeal Disposes of COVID-19 Coverage Dispute After Discovery Reveals Cause of Business Income Losses”
By: Dominica Anderson and Daniel B. Heidtke
Certain time-limited settlement demands delivered on or after January 1, 2023 will be subject to additional restrictions as California Code of Civil Procedure (“CCP”) Sections 999-999.5 take effect in the New Year. In the past, policyholder counsel have issued policy-limit demand letters, with little detail, and little time to respond; threats and concerns over acting in “bad faith” abound. In enacting CCP § 999-999.5, the California Legislature set about to establish restrictions and, importantly, clearer guidelines—for both policyholders and insurers.
Pursuant to CCP § 999(b)(2), a “time-limited demand” is defined as:
“an offer prior to the filing of the complaint or demand for arbitration to settle any cause of action or a claim for personal injury, property damage, bodily injury, or wrongful death made by or on behalf of a claimant to a tortfeasor with a liability insurance policy for purposes of settling the claim against the tortfeasor within the insurer’s limit of liability insurance, which by its terms must be accepted within a specified period of time.”
Thus, the new statutory requirements apply only to pre-litigation settlement demands and further only to limited causes of action and claims under automobile, homeowner, motor vehicle, or commercial premises liability insurance policies for property damage, personal or bodily injury and wrongful death claims. (CCP § 999.5(a).)
Continue reading “Clock is Ticking: New Law Restricts Time-Limited Policy Limit Settlement Demands”
By Max H. Stern and Holden Benon
This week, the California Supreme Court declined to hear the Policyholder’s appeal of the Court of Appeal’s decision in The Inns by the Sea v. California Mutual Ins. Co., which we previously reported on. For those tracking the COVID-19 business interruption appellate landscape, this should come as no surprise. The Court of Appeal’s decision is well-reasoned, and it is aligned with many COVID-19 business interruption decisions across the nation that have reached very similar conclusions. Policyholder attorneys expressed it is “hard to feel hopeful at this point.” We can understand why.
In an opinion filed on March 8, the California Court of Appeal, Second District, reversed a jury verdict against an insurer because the jury failed to make an explicit finding that the insurer acted unreasonably in some respect. In Alexander Pinto v. Farmers Ins. Exch., Case No. B295742, the court held that a bad faith claim requires a finding that the insurer acted unreasonably in some respect. Because the jury made no such finding (because the verdict form lacked any question asking the jury to make such a finding), the court vacated the verdict in favor of the insured and remanded the case for further proceedings.
The coverage dispute arose out of a single-car traffic accident. The victim offered to settle his claim against the vehicle owner in exchange for payment of the vehicle owner’s insurance policy limits. The offer lapsed before the insurer accepted it. The victim then obtained a judgment in excess of the vehicle owner’s insurance policy limits. The vehicle owner then assigned her claims against the insurer to the victim. The victim then sued the insurer alleging that the insurer should be held liable for its alleged bad faith failure to settle. The victim prevailed at trial against the insurer.
At issue in the appeal was the lack of an express finding by the jury that the insurer had acted unreasonably (again, the lack of an express finding was because the jury had not been asked this question on the verdict form). The court explained, “[t]he issue is whether, in the context of a third party insurance claim, failing to accept a reasonable settlement offer constitutes bad faith per se. We conclude it does not.”
Continue reading “Rejection of Reasonable Settlement in Third Party Insurance Claim Not Per Se Unreasonable”
As we wrote earlier this week, legislators continue their efforts to address the enormous cost of business continuity losses. Most recently, Representative Mike Thompson of California, introduced H.R.6494, labeled the “Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Act of 2020”. Continue reading “Congress Proposes Bill for Coronavirus Business Interruption Insurance Coverage”
Duane Morris is pleased to announce that Cyndie M. Chang, was honored by the Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Association for being the first female managing partner of a major Los Angeles area firm. Cyndie M. Chang, managing partner of Duane Morris’ Los Angeles office, litigates complex business and commercial disputes involving contracts, unfair competition, trademark, trade secrets, products liability, broker disputes, entertainment and real estate law.
Ms. Chang was recognized by the Daily Journal as one of the 2014 Top 100 Women Lawyers in California. Best Lawyers Magazine, Spring Edition 2016, profiled Ms. Chang as one of 15 women in the legal profession leading the charge for achievements in the practice and policy, on both local and national levels. The Recorder named Ms. Chang a “2013 Lawyer on the Fast Track.” Ms. Chang was also named in the Lawyers of Color Inaugural Hot List, which honored 100 early-to-mid-career minority attorneys for excellence in the legal profession. In addition, Ms. Chang was named among the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (“NAPABA”) 2010 “Best Lawyers under 40,” awarded to 20 lawyers across the country. Continue reading “Duane Morris Los Angeles Managing Partner Cyndie M. Chang Honored by the APAWLA”
The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District, Division Two, in 21st Century Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (Tapia), ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (No. E062244, September 10, 2015), recently confirmed some of the important protections for defending insurers against stipulated judgments that were established in the Hamilton and Safeco decisions and limited the application of other decisions that have been relied on by claimants and policyholders seeking to get around the Hamilton rule against bad faith actions premised on such stipulated judgments. Continue reading “Protections Against Defended Policyholder Manufacturing Bad Faith Case Via Stipulated Judgment Confirmed By California Court”
Today the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Fluor Corporation v. Superior Court. In a unanimous decision, authored by the Chief Justice, the Court rejected the enforceability of “consent to assignment” clauses as a bar to coverage when the loss pre-dates the assignment, based on California Insurance Code section 520, and overruled its prior decision in Henkel Corp. v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co. (2003) 29 Cal.4th 934.
Continue reading “California Supreme Court Issues Fluor Decision, Reverses Henkel Anti-Assignment Rule”
Duane Morris partner Paul J. Killion of the firm’s San Francisco office has recently been appointed chair of the California State Bar’s Committee on Appellate Courts for the term commencing at the close of the 2015 State Bar Annual Meeting on October 11, 2015.
Killion is a Certified Appellate Specialist and practices in the area of complex civil litigation. He has argued or briefed over 100 appellate matters, including appeals, writs, petitions for review, merits briefing and amicus curiae briefing. He has handled a variety of litigation and appeals, including significant national experience in asbestos, pollution, toxic tort insurance coverage litigation and large personal injury claims. He has a broad range of appellate experience, with a particular focus on appeals from complex jury trials. Killion has appeared before all Districts of the California Courts of Appeal and before the California Supreme Court, as well as the Ninth and Tenth Circuits and the Supreme Courts of Washington and Oregon. He also represents clients as amici counsel in the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal.
Duane Morris’ Cyndie M. Chang, a partner in the firm’s Los Angeles office, will be speaking at the American Bar Association (ABA) Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section’s spring conference, “Resolution of Property Insurance Claims in the Modern Age-Appraisal, Mediation and Arbitration,” which will be held on April 24-26, 2014, at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, California. Ms. Chang will participate in a panel discussion on “Mock Mediation of a Property Insurance Claim: Focusing on Preparation as the Key to Success” on Thursday, April 24, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Continue reading “Duane Morris Partner Cyndie Chang to Present at the ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section’s Spring Conference”