Articles Posted in Insurance Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that McKinley Chiropractic Center, P.C. (McKinley) was entitled to judgment against Erie Insurance Company (Erie). Devonta Dodson was involved in a motor vehicle collision with Joann Hutson. Erie insured Hutson with liability coverage under an automobile insurance company. Dodson, who sought chiropractic care for her injuries arising from the collision, executed a document assigning to McKinley all insurance and/or litigation proceeds to which she may be entitled and all causes of action she might have against Erie. Dodson subsequently accepted $7,300 from Erie in return for Dodson’s agreement to release both Hutson and Erie from causes of action arising from the claimed legal liability of Hutson and Erie arising out of the accident. McKinley subsequently filed a warrant in debt against Erie. The district court rendered judgment for the chiropractic services provided to Dodson. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, as a matter of law, McKinley did not have a right to sue Erie. View "Erie Insurance Co. v. McKinley Chiropractic Center, P.C." on Justia Law

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Two property insurers issued policies to a Harris Teeter grocery store. The insurers together paid claims for property damage resulting from the malfunctioning of a county sewer line. Exercising their subrogation rights, the insurers sued Arlington County alleging an inverse condemnation claim under Va. Const. art. I, section 11. The circuit court dismissed the case with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in concluding that the original complaint failed to state a viable legal claim for inverse condemnation; but (2) the court erred in denying the insurers leave to amend their complaint because the allegations in the proffered amended complaint, combined with the reasonable inferences arising from them, asserted a legally viable claim for inverse condemnation. Remanded. View "AGCS Marine Insurance Co. v. Arlington County" on Justia Law

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Ebenezer Manu filed a complaint against GEICO Casualty Company alleging that GEICO violated Va. Code Ann. 8.01-66.1 for its bad faith conduct in adjusting his uninsured motorist bodily injury claim. Specifically, Manu alleged that GEICO, his uninsured motorist (UM) carrier, violated its duty of good faith by refusing to pay its UM policy limits prior to Manu obtaining a judgment against the uninsured tortfeasor. GEICO filed a demurrer. The circuit court ultimately granted GEICO’s motion to compel and dismissed the complaint with prejudice, concluding that section 8.01-66.1(D)(1) did not provide Manu a remedy against GEICO. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 8.01-66.1(D)(1) does not create a duty for UM carriers to settle a case prior to trial but, rather, creates a remedy for the conduct of UM carriers that refuse in bad faith to pay once the insured has obtained judgment; and (2) accordingly, Manu’s complaint failed to state a cognizable claim. View "Manu v. GEICO Casualty Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (together, Nationwide) brought a claim for declaratory judgment requesting that the trial court determine the priority of five separate insurance policies provided by Nationwide and Erie Insurance Exchange (Erie). The trial court determined the priority of coverage as (1) Nationwide Business Auto Policy, $1 million; (2) Nationwide Commercial General Liability Policy, $1 million; (3) Nationwide Commercial Umbrella Policy, $1 million; (4) Erie Commercial Auto Policy, $1 million; and (5) Erie Business Catastrophe Liability Policy, $5 million. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the order of priorities for the applicable insurance policies in this case was (1) Erie Auto Policy; (2) Nationwide Auto Policy; (3) Nationwide Umbrella Policy and Erie Umbrella Policy, pro rata. View "Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Erie Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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A pretrial detainee asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against guards and nurses at a regional jail. The jail authority had purchased a general liability insurance policy (the VaCorp Policy) from the Virginia Association of Counties Group Self Insurance Risk Pool (Risk Pool Association) and also elected to participate in a government-sponsored insurance program (the VaRISK Plan) managed by the Division of Risk Management (DRM). While the federal suit was pending, the detainee filed a declaratory judgment action against DRM and the Risk Pool Association seeking a determination of their respective liabilities for insuring the jail defendants. The Risk Pool Association and the DRM filed opposing third-party claims for declaratory relief. The detainee later settled with the jail defendants. The circuit court concluded (1) the VaRISK Plan was the sole primary coverage and that the DRM had the exclusive duty to defend the jail defendants, and (2) the Risk Pool Association had no duty to contribute toward the defense costs incurred by the jail defendants in the federal suit. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the VaCorp Policy and VaRISK Plan provided co-primary liability coverage to the jail defendants; and (2) VaRISK Plan’s $2 million coverage extension applicable to medical malpractice claims did not apply to the section 1983 civil rights claim alleging violations of federal constitutional law. Remanded. View "Commonwealth, Div. of Risk Mgmt. v. Va. Ass'n of Counties Group Self Ins. Risk Pool" on Justia Law

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Insured filed a complaint alleging that Insured had breached a title insurance policy. Insured also alleged that Insurer had acted in bad faith and requested an award of attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Va. Code Ann. 38.2-209. Insured demanded a jury trial “on all counts so triable.” Insurer sought to have the trial judge, rather than the jury, consider the issues of bad faith and attorney’s fees. The jury was permitted to award attorney’s fees. The jury found in favor of Insured and awarded $442,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. The trial court judge vacated the jury’s award of attorney’s fees and costs, ruling that section 38.2-209(A) requires a judge, not a jury, to determine whether an insurer committed a bad faith breach of an insurance contract warranting an award of attorney’s fees. Reconsidering the evidence de novo, the judge then concluded that the evidence was insufficient to prove that Insurer had acted in bad faith. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a judge, not a jury, must determine whether an insurer has acted in bad faith under the policy; and (2) section 38.2.209(A) does not implicate the right to a jury trial under Va. Const. art. I, 11. View "REVI, LLC v. Chicago Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Jennifer Ploutis’ home was insured under a policy issued by Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company when water pipes in the home burst, damaging the home and certain contents. When the parties were unable to reach an agreement on the cost of certain repairs, Ploutis filed a complaint for breach of contract against Allstate. Upon the request of Ploutis, the action was nonsuited. Well after two years after the damage was sustained, Ploutis filed the present action. Allstate filed a demurrer asserting that Ploutis failed to comply with the conditions precedent under the policy by bringing the action within two years “after the inception of loss or damage.” The circuit court overruled the demurrer, concluding that the limitations period was tolled pursuant to Va. Code Ann. 8.01-229(E)(3), which tolls the “statute of limitations” with respect to nonsuited actions. Judgment was entered in favor of Ploutis. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court and entered final judgment for Allstate, holding that the circuit court erred in ruling that section 8.01-229(E)(3) applies to the contractual period of limitations for filing an action under Allstate’s policy. View "Allstate Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Ploutis" on Justia Law

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Draper Paving, the subcontractor for a road project, employed Richard Slone as a dump truck driver and assigned him to work on the project. Slone died from injuries he received in an accident while working on the project. At the time of the accident, Draper Paving had taken out a motor vehicle insurance policy with Selective Insurance Company of America. Karen Slone Bratton and Selective Insurance filed separate declaratory judgment actions seeking to determine whether Slone fell within the scope of the Selective Insurance policy’s coverage. The circuit court concluded that Bratton was not entitled to insurance proceeds from Selective Insurance because Slone did not fall within the scope of the policy at the time of the accident. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Slone was occupying both a dump truck and company pickup truck - both covered autos - at the time of the accident under the Selective Insurance policy. Because the policy’s coverage limit for each covered auto applied independently to multiple covered autos involved in the same accident, Bratton was entitled to proceeds under the Selective Insurance policy for both the dump truck and the company pickup truck. Remanded. View "Bratton v. Selective Ins. Co. of Am." on Justia Law

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Vu Vo filed a lawsuit against Christopher Bartolomucci seeking damages for injuries he sustained in a vehicle collision. Bartolomucci filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to establish that his vehicle he was driving at the time of the collision fell within the scope of the Federal Insurance Company’s insurance policy issued to Bartolomucci’s law firm. The circuit court allowed Bartolomucci’s suit to continue on the theory that he was covered by the policy. After a jury trial, the circuit court entered judgment in favor of Federal Insurance, holding that the policy did not cover Bartolomucci’s use of the vehicle at the time of the collision. At issue on appeal was the scope and application of the policy, which provided coverage for Bartolomucci’s vehicle only when that vehicle was “used in” the law firm’s business or personal affairs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the policy did not cover Bartolomucci’s use of the vehicle at the time of the collision because a morning commute by a law firm partner from home to work does not constitute “use” of the partner’s vehicle “in” a law firm’s business or personal affairs. View "Bartolomucci v. Federal Ins. Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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The Doctors Company (TDC), a professional liability insurance company, sought a determination that its coverage of policyholder Women's Healthcare Associates (WHA) did not apply to a pending breach of contract action relating to WHA's participation in the Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Act (the Birth Injury Fund). The Davidson family filed the underlying breach of contract action against WHA, alleging that they entered into an express contract with WHA partly in reliance on WHA's participation in the Birth Injury Fund, and WHA materially breached the contract by failing to pay into the fund as represented to the Davidsons. The circuit court ruled against TDC and in favor of WHA and the Davidsons, finding that the policy covered the claim alleged by the Davidsons in their complaint against WHA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the underlying action was covered by the insurance policy; and (2) therefore, TDC must both defend and indemnify WHA in the underling breach of contract action. View "The Doctors Co. v. Women's Healthcare Assocs." on Justia Law