Actions and Proceedings

November 20, 2005

Eaton v. Continental Casualty Co.
(California Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Sept. 15, 2005)

Ruling: The court held that the insured’s suit against an excess insurer was not barred by the four-year statute of limitation applicable to general liability insurance. The court held that the statute of limitations accrues when the insurer refuses to defend the insured in the underlying action. Further, the court noted that because the duty to defend is continuing, the statute is tolled until the underlying action is terminated by final judgment.

Essex Insurance Co. v. Ramirez
(California Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Sept. 21, 2005) (Unpublished)

Ruling: The coverage issue involved in this appeal was whether a theft claim was covered by a cargo policy. The court held that the theft was covered under the policy; however, the insurer was not liable for bad faith because its coverage position was not inherently unreasonable.

Williams v. Union Fidelity Life Insurance Co.
(Montana Court of Appeals, Sept. 9, 2005)

Ruling: At issue in this appeal was a debate about “good health.” The decedent, Clarence Williams, in filling out the application for credit life insurance coverage, had certified that he was in “good health.” The policy did not define “good health.” When Clarence, died in 1997, his wife, Barbara, submitted a claim for death benefits. The death certificate identified “renal cell carcinoma with metastasis,” which had existed for “years,” as an underlying cause of Clarence’s death. Consequently, Union Fidelity Life Insurance Co. denied the claim for benefits and rescinded the Certificate of Insurance on the basis that Clarence had misrepresented his health. Barbara appealed the jury verdict in the District Court for the 13th Judicial District, Yellowstone County, finding that Union Fidelity did not breach its contract with her and her husband. She also appealed the District Court’s denial of her motions for summary judgment and for judgment as a matter of law. The appeal was from a jury verdict and involved six specific questions. The court affirmed the denial of motions for summary judgment and remanded for a new trial because the court erred in the jury instructions.

Duty to Defend

Darling Construction and Realty Corp. v. Evanston Insurance Co.
(California Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Sept. 14, 2005) (Unpublished)

Ruling: In this case, the insured, a general contractor, had originally instituted an action against the owner of an apartment complex. The owners filed the cross-complaint. The insurer provided the insured with a defense on a cross-complaint in the underlying litigation. The insurer settled the underlying cross-complaint with no payment by the insured. The insured alleged the insurer should have provided it with independent counsel because the counsel appointed by the insurer had a disqualifying conflict of interest. The court disagreed with the insured and held that there was no conflict of interest.

Miscellaneous

Elisa Lawson v. Hoke
(Oregon Court of Appeals, Sept. 9, 2005)

Ruling: At issue on this appeal was a constitutional challenge to the state’s compulsory insurance law that precluded recovery for non-economic damages where the individual seeking recovery operates a motor vehicle without liability insurance. The majority held that the statute (ORS 31.715) is constitutional and stated that there is “no absolute common law right” to this remedy.

Workers Compensation

Cochran Electric Co. v. Mahoney
(Washington Court of Appeals, Sept. 16, 2005)

Ruling: The decedent in this appeal drove his employer’s service car to a garage for regular maintenance and then departed to home from the garage by bicycle. On the way to his home, he was struck by a car and later died. The court held that the injury occurred while the decedent was on a special errand for his employer and therefore, his death was compensable under Washington’s Industrial Insurance Act.

Bill Tracking Scofflaw License Contractors

California Assembly Bill 1027
(Introduced on Feb. 22, 2005 by Assembly-person Horton)

Regulation: This bill will require the Registrar of Contractors of the Contractors State License Board to obtain information from insurance rating organizations in connection with licensed contractors who fail to secure adequate specified insurance. It also will require the Franchise Tax Board to notify specified state agencies upon the filing of criminal charges against or arraignment of any individual for a violation if the individual engages in the business or acts in the capacity of a contractor with or unlawfully without a license. The state Assembly and Senate have passed the bill, and it was sent to the Governor on Sept. 19, 2005.

New Law Concerning Liability

California Assembly Bill 1123
(Signed into law Sept. 22, 2005)

Regulation: This new law relates to existing law that provides there shall be no liability on the part of any insurer, agent, broker, or other specified person for any statement made, unless shown to have been in bad faith in communications involving the cancellation of a policy. It applies these protections to communications and evidence involving the nonrenewal of a policy for insurers that issue professional liability insurance policies to health care providers. The law was chaptered by Secretary of State, Chapter 327.

Terrorism/Commercial Standard Fire Ins. Policy

Idaho House Bill 160
(Signed into Law on April 1, 2005)

Regulation: This law amends existing law to provide that commercial standard fire insurance policies may exclude coverage for loss of fire or other perils insured against, if fire or other perils are caused directly or indirectly by
terrorism. The law was chaptered, Chapter No. 237.

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