By Thomas R. Newman
The covenant of good faith and fair dealing that is implied by law in every liability insurance policy requires the insurer to concern itself with the interests and welfare of the insured as well as its own interests and welfare, and in so doing “the insurer at the very least must itself consider and determine whether or not a settlement offer is in the best interest of the insured.” Garner v. American Mut. Liability Ins. Co., 31 Cal. App. 3d 843, 847-848, 107 Cal. Rptr. 604, 607 (3d Dist 1973). If it is, as where liability is clear and the injuries or damages are likely to result in a judgment in excess of the policy limits, some courts have held that the insurer has an affirmative duty to initiate settlement negotiations. Goheagan v. American Vehicle Ins. Co., 107 So. 3d 433, 438 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1012); Noonan v. Vermont Mut. Ins. Co., 761 F. Supp. 2d 1330 (M.D. Fla. 2010)(Florida law); SRM, Inc. v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 798 F.3d 1322, 1323 (10th Cir. 2015)(Oklahoma law)(“a primary insurer owes its insured a duty to initiate settlement negotiations with a third-party claimant if the insured’s liability to the claimant is clear and the insured likely will be held liable for more than its insurance will cover”).
Continue reading Insurer’s Duty to Initiate Settlement Discussion
Insurers often rely upon coverage counsel to advise them of their duties and obligations with respect to claims for coverage by their insureds and then take that advice and communicate it in whole or in part to their insureds. The expectation is that the advice of counsel is privileged even if it is thereafter embraced by the insurer and communicated to the insured. But is it? No, said a trial court in West Virginia, where an insured sought from coverage counsel for the insurer opinion letters the counsel had written to the insurer on similar claims (i.e., claims not involved in the litigation between the insured and the insurer). Continue reading What I Tell You is Privileged and Protected From Discovery (Even if You Embrace It and Reiterate It to Your Insured)
In a decision notable for several reasons, the New York State Court of Appeals—the state’s highest court—reversed itself in K2 Investment Group, LLC v. American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co. [21 NY3d 384 (2014)] and reaffirmed its earlier ruling in Servidone Construction Corp. v. Security Insurance Company of Hartford [64 NY2d 419 (1985)].
In doing so, the court reestablished the rule it pronounced in Servidone when it held that a liability insurer who determines not to provide a defense to its insured may still contest its duty to indemnify on the basis of an exclusion to coverage.
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