Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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David Murray purchased used computer equipment worth nearly $40,000, which was damaged by the United Postal Service (UPS) while it was being transported from California to Texas. Murray believed he purchased appropriate insurance to cover this loss, but the insurance company denied his claim. Murray sued his insurance broker, UPS Capital Insurance Agency (UPS Capital), for breach of contract and negligence, claiming UPS Capital owed him a special duty to make the insurance policy language understandable to an ordinary person and to explain the scope of coverage. The court granted UPS Capital’s motion for summary judgment after concluding there was no heightened duty of care and dismissed Murray’s lawsuit. On appeal, Murray asked the Court of Appeal to create a new rule that brokers/agents, specializing in a specific field of insurance, hold themselves out as experts, and are subject to a heightened duty of care towards clients seeking that particular kind of insurance. While the Court declined the invitation to create a per se rule, it concluded Murray raised triable issues of fact as to whether UPS Capital undertook a special duty by holding itself out as having expertise in inland marine insurance, and Murray reasonably relied on its expertise. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of dismissal and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Murray v. UPS Capital Ins. Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sapa manufactures aluminum extruded profiles, pre-treats the metal and coats it with primer and topcoat. For decades, Sapa supplied “organically coated extruded aluminum profiles” to Marvin, which incorporated these extrusions with other materials to manufacture aluminum-clad windows and doors. This process was permanent, so if an extrusion was defective, it could not be swapped out; the whole window or door had to be replaced. In 2000-2010, Marvin bought about 28 million Sapa extrusions and incorporated them in about 8.5 million windows and doors. Marvin sometimes received complaints that the aluminum parts of its windows and doors would oxidize or corrode. The companies initially worked together to resolve the issues. In the mid-2000s, there was an increase in complaints, mostly from people who lived close to the ocean. In 2010, Marvin sued Sapa, alleging that Sapa had sold it extrusions that failed to meet Marvin’s specifications. In 2013, the companies settled their dispute for a large sum.Throughout the relevant period, Sapa maintained 28 commercial general liability insurance policies through eight carriers. Zurich accepted the defense under a reservation of rights, but the Insurers disclaimed coverage. Sapa sued them, asserting breach of contract. The district court held that Marvin’s claims were not an “occurrence” that triggered coverage. The Third Circuit vacated in part, citing Pennsylvania insurance law: whether a manufacturer may recover from its liability insurers the cost of settling a lawsuit alleging that the manufacturer’s product was defective turns on the language of the specific policies. Nineteen policies, containing an Accident Definition of “occurrence,” do not cover Marvin’s allegations, which are solely for faulty workmanship. Seven policies contain an Expected/Intended Definition that triggers a subjective-intent standard that must be considered on remand. Two policies with an Injurious Exposure Definition also include the Insured’s Intent Clause and require further consideration. View "Sapa Extrusions, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals was whether the district court correctly held that ACE American Insurance Company (ACE) had no duty to defend and indemnify DISH Network (DISH) in a lawsuit alleging that DISH’s use of telemarketing phone calls violated various federal and state laws. The primary question centered on whether statutory damages and injunctive relief under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act were “damages” under the insurance policies at issue and insurable under Colorado law, or were uninsurable “penalties.” The Court concluded they were penalties under controlling Colorado law, and affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of ACE. View "ACE American Insurance Company v. Dish Network" on Justia Law

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Lexington Insurance denied a claim by its insured, Double D Warehouse, for coverage of Double D’s liability to customers for contamination of warehoused products. One basis for denial was that Double D failed to document its warehousing transactions with warehouse receipts, storage agreements, or rate quotations, as required by the policies. PQ was a customer of Double D whose products were damaged while warehoused there. PQ settled its case against Double D by stepping into Double D’s shoes to try to collect on the policies. PQ argued that there were pragmatic reasons to excuse strict compliance with the policy’s terms. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Lexington. PQ accurately claimed that the documentation Double D actually had (bills of lading and an online tracking system) should serve much the same purpose as the documentation required by the policies (especially warehouse receipts), but commercially sophisticated parties agreed to unambiguous terms and conditions of insurance. Courts hold them to those terms. To do otherwise would disrupt the risk allocations that are part and parcel of any contract, but particularly a commercial liability insurance contract. PQ offered no persuasive reason to depart from the plain language of the policies. View "PQ Corp. v. Lexington Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Creditor extended to Debtor a line of credit, and Debtor granted Creditor, pursuant to an agreement, a security interest in payments due to Debtor under an insurance policy. The agreement provided that Maine law governed all rights under the agreement. Insurer subsequently issued a commercial property insurance policy to Debtor. After a freight train owned by Debtor derailed, Creditor filed a claim under the policy, which Insurer denied. Debtor then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Creditor instituted an adversary proceeding seeking a declaration regarding the priority of its asserted security interest in any payments due under the policy. Insurer subsequently settled with Debtor and the trustee requiring Insurer to pay $3,800,000 to Debtor in satisfaction of all claims under the policy. Creditor objected to approval of the proposed settlement, arguing that the agreement granted it a first-priority security interest in the settlement. The bankruptcy court concluded that Debtor was entitled to the settlement proceeds free and clear of Creditor’s asserted interest because Creditor had failed to perfect its interest under Maine law. The bankruptcy appellate panel affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the courts below did not err in concluding that Debtor was entitled to the proposed settlement payment free and clear of Creditor’s asserted security interest. View "Wheeling & Lake Erie Ry. v. Keach" on Justia Law

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Between July 30, 2003, and August 31, 2003, Sunline imported eight entries of freshwater crawfish tailmeat from Chinese producer Hubei, which were subject to a U.S. Department of Commerce antidumping duty order covering freshwater crawfish tailmeat from China. The Hubei Entries were entered following approval by Customs of eight single-entry bonds that covered the estimated antidumping duties and designated Hartford as surety. The Hubei Entries were made during the pendency of Hubei’s “new shipper review.” After Hubei’s new shipper review was rescinded, meaning Hubei did not qualify for an individual antidumping duty rate, Customs liquidated the Entries at the 223.01% country-wide rate. After Sunline failed to pay, Customs demanded payment from Hartford, which filed a complaint at the Court of International Trade, seeking to void its obligations under the bonds because Customs had been investigating Sunline for possible import law violations during the period in which the bonds were secured and did not inform Hartford of the investigation. The Trade Court dismissed. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Hartford did not allege any facts that establish a connection between the investigation and Sunline’s failure to pay its antidumping duties after liquidation. View "Hartford Fire Ins. Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Insured appealed the circuit court's grant of judgment on the pleadings to Broker on Insured's claims that Broker violated a fiduciary duty of loyalty to Insured by not disclosing that Broker received contingent commissions from Insurers for directing Insured's business to them and that Broker kept all interest earned on the premiums Insured sent it between the time Broker received them and the time they were forwarded to the Insurers. In addition, Insured argued that Broker breached a duty to find it the least costly policy possible. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) brokers do not have a duty to find insureds the lowest possible cost insurance available to meet their needs; (2) Missouri law specifically authorizes a broker to receive commissions from the insurer and to deposit premiums in an account pending their payment to the insurer or refund to the insured; but (3) the trial court erred by dismissing the petition because it could not be said as a matter of law that Emerson could not recover on one or more of its claims. Remanded.View "Emerson Elec. Co. v. Marsh & McLennan Cos." on Justia Law

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TAMS, a medical device manufacturer, hired Comtrans to coordinate shipment of equipment to a trade show in Chicago. Comtrans is not a carrier. It used its affiliate, ACS, which retained Atlas to perform the actual shipment. The Atlas truck was involved in a serious accident, leaving TAMS with more than $1 million in losses. TAMS’s insurance company sued on behalf of TAMS. Atlas is an interstate motor carrier authorized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to transport goods in interstate commerce. Claims are subject to the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. 14706, which provides that a carrier of property in interstate commerce is liable for the actual loss or injury to the property caused b” the carrier, which may be limited “to a value established by written or electronic declaration of the shipper or by written agreement between the carrier and shipper if that value would be reasonable under the circumstances.” Atlas relied on the contract it had in place with ACS and the bill of lading delivered signed by a Comtrans warehouse manager when Atlas picked up TAMS’s shipment, as limiting liability to $0.60 per pound. The district court entered summary judgment for Atlas. The Seventh Circuit remanded for further development of the facts. View "Nipponkoa Ins. Co., L v. Atlas Van Lines, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2003, the Trust sought group accident and life insurance policies as a benefit for its union members. Consistent with the Trust's request, the broker's RFP specifically sought a policy where the "Trust is the owner of the policy and also [a] beneficiary." Defendant's proposal contained only a summary of proposed terms, expressly cautioned that it was not a contract, and omitted reference to the Trust’s desired beneficiary provision. The policy drafts sent to the Trust did not contain the beneficiary provision the Trust wanted and stated that payment of the required premium after delivery of the policies would constitute acceptance. The Trust's chairman signed and paid the first premium in 2003 In May, 2004, the Trust made a claim on the group life policy. Defendant responded that the terms of the policy required it to pay the full benefit to the decedent's beneficiaries. The Trust terminated the policy, stopped paying premiums, and filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment and rescission of the contract. The district court dismissed the Trust's claims and entered judgment for defendant for $95,059.99 in unpaid premiums. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that the parties had an enforceable contract. View "Nat'l Prod. Workers Union Ins. Trust v. CIGNA Corp." on Justia Law

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In the garnishment action below, Plaintiffs sought to collect the consent judgments they had previously obtained in settlement of their tort actions against Americold Corporation, which was insured by Northwestern Pacific Indemnity Company (NPIC). NPIC, the garnishee in the instant action, appealed the district court's adverse rulings, contending that the underlying judgments against Americold had become dormant and extinguished, thus depriving the district court of subject matter jurisdiction to proceed with this garnishment action. Finding in favor of NPIC on that issue, the Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) when the district court entered its judgment against NPIC in this garnishment proceeding, Plaintiffs' underlying consent judgments against Americold had been extinguished by operation of the dormancy and revivor statutes; (2) because Americold was not legally obligated to pay an unenforceable judgment, NPIC was no longer indebted to Americold under its contract to pay the judgments for which Americold was legally liable; and (3) accordingly, without an indebtedness from NPIC to Americold, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to grant Plaintiffs judgment against NPIC in a garnishment proceeding. Remanded with directions to dismiss these garnishment proceedings. View "Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. v. Americold Corp." on Justia Law