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Louisiana Federal Court Upholds Applicability of Anti-Concurrent Causation Exclusion for Hurricane Damage

In a timely reaffirmation of the Fifth Circuit’s 2007 ruling in Leonard v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., a Louisiana federal court recently upheld the application of an insurance policy’s Anti-Concurrent Causation Clause (“ACC”) in precluding coverage for property damage caused by a combination of storm winds and flooding.  In Chad Little, et al. v. Aegis Security Insurance Co., Case No. 2:21-CV-00997 (W.D.La. July 9, 2021), the Western District of Louisiana granted defendant-insurer’s motion for summary judgment holding that the defendant-insurer proved that both a covered peril (storm winds) and an excluded peril (flooding) contributed to the losses claimed by the plaintiffs-insureds, and that as a result of the application of the policy’s ACC, all coverage was precluded.  About The Authors

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Posted in Catastrophes, Water

New Jersey Federal Court Holds That Insurance Coverage Issues Do Not Need To Be Decided Before Appraisal

A federal court recently held that ongoing insurance coverage issues should not prevent an appraisal from going forward as per an appraisal clause in the insurance policy. In DC Plastic Products Corp. v. Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Co. Case No. 17-13092 (D.N.J. May 19, 2021), the District Court of New Jersey directed the parties to proceed with the appraisal process as set forth in the relevant policy, despite the defendant-insurer’s argument that appraisal is improper under New Jersey law where unresolved coverage issues exist. Plaintiff DC Plastics Products Corporation (“DC Plastics”) made an insurance claim to its insurance carrier Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Co. (“Westchester”) after DC Plastics’ premises in Bayonne, New Jersey was damaged as a result of Superstorm

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Posted in Causation, Causes of Loss, Valuation

Southern District of New York Holds Contamination Exclusion is Ambiguous as Applied to Covid-19 Business Losses

The Southern District of New York recently held that a contamination exclusion was ambiguous in the context of Covid-19-related business interruption losses. Accordingly, the court held that the issue was inappropriate to decide at the summary judgment stage and denied both parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment.    In Thor Equities LLC v. Factory Mut. Ins. Co., No. 1:20-cv-03380 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2021), an insured commercial property owner sought business interruption coverage under its property insurance policy. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, asking the court to determine the applicability of two exclusions, one of which was a contamination exclusion. The exclusion excluded “contamination, and any cost due to contamination including the inability to use or occupy property or any

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Posted in Contamination

North Carolina Court Finds Coverage for Restaurants’ COVID-19 Business Income Losses

A trial level court in North Carolina recently found coverage under first-party property insurance policies for the insured restaurants’ COVID-19-related business income losses.  In North State Deli, LLC et al. v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., et al., Case No. 20-CVS-02569 in the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, County of Durham, Judge Orlando F. Hudson, Jr. granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiff-insureds, finding that plaintiffs’ business income losses resulting from the governmental shutdown of its business constituted a “loss” to property, sufficient to trigger coverage under the Cincinnati policies.  Although similarly situation insureds will undoubtedly rely on this decision in support of their claims for coverage, it is important to note that the North State Deli decision relies heavily

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Posted in Business Interuption, Causes of Loss, Coverage, Direct Physical Loss or Damage, Order of Civil Authority

Eleventh Circuit Confirms Cleaning is not Direct Physical Loss

The Eleventh Circuit has provided some clarity to Florida businesses and their insurers dealing with COVID-19 claims. In Mama Jo’s Inc., d.b.a. Berries v. Sparta Ins. Co., No. 18-12887 (11th Cir. March 18, 2020), the Court held that a restaurant’s lost income and extra cleaning costs due to nearby roadwork did not trigger coverage because it did not involve direct physical loss or damage. In the underlying case pending in the Southern District of Florida, Mama Jo’s, Inc. v. Sparta Ins. Co., 17-CV-23362-KMM, 2018 WL 3412974, at *9 (S.D. Fla. June 11, 2018), the Court considered whether there was a direct physical loss when construction debris and dust from road work required the insured to clean its floors, walls, tables,

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Posted in Coverage, Direct Physical Loss or Damage

JPML Will Not Allow Centralization of MDL Covid-19 Lawsuits

On April 20, 2020, two policyholders involved in Covid-19 class action suits filed the first motion with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) asking for the transfer and coordination or consolidation of two class actions suits filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with nine so-called “related actions” filed in federal courts in Illinois, Florida, New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, California, Oregon, and Texas and “subsequent tag-along actions.”[1] Others followed suit in attempting to transfer, coordinate, and/or consolidate actions into several MDLs. There are currently more than 100 insurance companies named as defendants in the cases proposed for transfer. About The Authors

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Posted in Business Interuption, Direct Physical Loss or Damage

New Hurricane Harvey Opinion Provides a Roadmap to Defeating Common Policyholder Attorney Tactics

Policyholders attorneys often try to skip the threshold steps of bringing their client’s claim within coverage and allocating between covered and non-covered causes of loss.  Instead, the policyholder attorney would have the insurer first disprove coverage, or at least first justify its coverage position.  These tactics unfold in a familiar way. The policyholder attorney will engage a consultant to write up an Xactimate estimate.  Or, perhaps a public adjuster already wrote up the estimate and then brought the claim to the attorney.  Everything that is wrong with the structure will go into the estimate.  Every water-stained ceiling tile, bent AC condenser fin, and dent on the siding will go into the estimate regardless of causation.  The bigger estimate, the better

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Posted in Catastrophes, Coverage, Hurricane

Coronavirus: Is There Coverage Under Property Insurance Policies?

Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) has disrupted events, supply chains, sales, and entire industries.  As a result, businesses are going to look to their property insurers to recuperate lost business income, as well as expenses related to cleaning, sanitizing and decontamination.  The first lawsuit alleging a business interruption loss was filed yesterday in Louisiana, and there are most likely others that will be filed in the coming days and weeks. Almost all property policies require direct, physical loss or damage to property to trigger coverage.  Whether claims related to COVID-19 can meet this threshold requirement largely depends on whether the case law in a given jurisdiction construes the phrase “direct physical loss or damage” narrowly or broadly.  In addition, an analysis of the

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Posted in Coverage

Failure of Insured to Provide Requested Documents Triggers Appraisal Under First Party Insurance Policy

Those familiar with first party insurance policies have undoubtedly encountered a recurring issue with the interpretation of appraisal provisions – what does it mean to disagree on the amount of loss?  In Valvano Realty Co. v. American Fire and Casualty Co., the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania recently held that a disagreement on the amount of loss encompasses situations where an insurer claims it needs additional documentation before it can determine whether a disagreement exists.  Valvano involved a December 18, 2015 fire at the Plaintiff’s property in Dickson City, Pennsylvania, which was insured by American.  American’s adjuster, working with a retained construction consultant and structural engineer, determined the replacement cost value of the loss to

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Posted in Actual Cash Value, Arbitration and Appraisal

Collapse Coverage: Second Circuit Holds That Cracking Walls Do Not Constitute “Collapse”

Most homeowners’ policies – and property insurance policies in general – contain a limited coverage extension for “collapse.”  The interpretation of that collapse coverage has been litigated around the country for decades, with different jurisdictions reaching considerably different results.  The latest of these decisions, Valls v. Allstate Insurance Company, No. 17-3495-cv (2d Cir. 2019), comes out of the Second Circuit, deciding the case under Connecticut law.  The case presented a single substantive question: does the “collapse” provision afford coverage for basement walls which had significant cracking but remain standing?  Both the district court (D. Conn.) and the Second Circuit Court of Appeal concluded that it does not. In Valls, the plaintiffs owned a home in Connecticut which was insured by

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Posted in Collapse
About The Property Insurance Law Observer
For more than four decades, Cozen O’Connor has represented all types of property insurers in jurisdictions throughout the United States, and it is dedicated to keeping its clients abreast of developments that impact the insurance industry. The Property Insurance Law Observer will survey court decisions, enacted or proposed legislation, and regulatory activities from all 50 states. We will also include commentary on current issues and developing trends of interest to first-party insurers.
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