Blog Archives

Forgery May Not Constitute “Theft” Under an Employee Dishonesty Coverage

Ruling in favor of the insurer on a motion for summary judgment, on July 29, 2016 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that under the terms of a commercial crime policy, proof of a forgery by the insured’s employee in extending $90 million of credit to a customer did not establish an unlawful taking as required by the policy terms. Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co, LLC v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, PA, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 13838 (5th Cir. 2016). Tesoro, a refiner and marketer of petroleum products sold fuel on credit to petroleum distributor Enmex. On several occasions the credit director for Tesoro, for unknown reasons, falsified and forged signatures on numerous letters of credit

Posted in Theft or Dishonesty

Oklahoma Holds Question of Whether Fracking Causes Earthquakes is for the Courts to Decide.

The issue of whether hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” causes earthquakes has first-party insurance implications because policies typically exclude damage from tremors attributable to man-made causes as opposed to purely unnatural ones.  We’ve discussed the issue in two recent posts after Insurance Commissioners in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania publicly warned carriers against denying earthquake claims on the basis that they were attributable to oil and gas drilling.  The jury is still out on the issue, but scientific evidence linking fracking to the tremors is accumulating rapidly. At the present time, Oklahoma is at the “sharp end of the spear” with respect to this issue because the state experienced fully 567 quakes of Magnitude 3.0 or greater in 2014.  That is the more

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Posted in Causation, Earthquake, Homeowners Coverage, Regulation

Ninth Circuit: Under Arizona Law Mudslide Can Be Covered as the Direct Result of Fire

Last Friday, a unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit held that loss from the excluded peril of mudslide occurring one month after a wildfire could be covered as the “direct” result of the blaze.  In Stankova v. Metropolitan Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 2015 WL 3429395, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 8935 (9th Cir., May 29, 2015),  it reached that result even though Arizona has not adopted the efficient proximate cause rule, saying that it did not need to apply that doctrine to determine that the mudslide “could have been directly and proximately caused by the wildfire.” It also blithely ignored anti-concurrent causation (ACC) language, which is given effect in Arizona, as “inconsistent with Arizona’s standard fire insurance policy, which insures

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Posted in Anti-Concurrent Causation, Causation, Direct Physical Loss or Damage, Efficient Proximate Cause, Exclusions, Flood, Mudslide, Wildfire

Pennsylvania Joins Oklahoma, Bans Homeowners Insurers From Attributing Earthquakes to Fracking

Last month we reported that the Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner had issued a bulletin cautioning earthquake insurers against denying claims on the basis that the quake was attributable to a man-made cause, which is to say oil and gas production, rather than to a purely natural one.  Recently, Pennsylvania’s Acting Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller followed suit, “instructing” homeowners carriers that earthquake endorsements “should cover all earthquakes, whether believed to be ‘naturally occurring’ or caused by ‘human activity.’ ” The Keystone State has not seen the dramatic uptick in earthquake activity that has shattered both nerves and property in Oklahoma in recent years.  Because of the hydrocarbon-rich Marcellus Shale formation, however, it remains a jurisdiction with more oil and gas drilling than

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Posted in Causation, Earthquake, Homeowners Coverage, Regulation

Arizona Court: Argument that All Business Income Loss Caused by a Wildfire is Covered is “Off Base”

Several weeks ago in White Mt. Communities Hosp., Inc. v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co., 2015 WL 1755372, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50900 (D. Ariz., Apr. 17, 2015), an Arizona federal court underscored that business interruption losses flowing from a wildfire are only covered to the extent that they stem directly from physical loss or damage to the policyholder’s property.  In other words, loss of income due to the fire in general is beyond the scope of such coverage absent a causal nexus with repairs necessitated by the blaze. The policyholder White Mountain owned a hospital in Springerville, Arizona.  On May 29, 2011, a blaze was started by an abandoned campfire in the nearby Bear Wallow Wilderness Area.  The wildfire ultimately

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Posted in Business Interuption, Causation, Contamination, Direct Physical Loss or Damage, Fire, Smoke and Soot, Wildfire

Texas Supreme Court Enforces Anti-Concurrent Causation, Bars Coverage Where Wind and Flood Combine to Cause the Loss

Last Friday, Texas’ highest court unanimously endorsed lower court and federal court decisions giving effect to anti-concurrent causation (ACC) clauses and held that such provisions bar coverage where a combination of an excluded peril and an included peril operate together to cause the loss.  In JAW The Pointe, LLC v. Lexington Ins. Co., 2015 WL 1870054, 2015 Tex. LEXIS 343 (Tex., Apr. 24, 2015), that meant that the insured could not recover where flood and wind damage triggered the enforcement of city ordinances even though the covered wind damage component was arguably sufficient in and of itself to cause the loss. The policyholder owned The Pointe Apartments – a complex in Galveston, Texas that was heavily damaged when Hurricane Ike

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Posted in Anti-Concurrent Causation, Causation, Flood, Hurricane, Hurricane Ike, Ordinance or Law, Windstorm

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner: Don’t Deny Earthquake Claims as Man-Made by Linking Them to Fracking

The jury is still out on whether hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” causes earthquakes, but carriers whose policies afford coverage for quakes have recently been denying such claims, asserting that they are excluded because they are attributable to a man-made cause – oil and gas production – rather than to a purely natural one.  Early last month, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak cautioned against that, issuing a Bulletin warning earthquake insurers that his office would be forced “to take appropriate action to enforce the law” if they continued to deny quake claims on the basis of what he called “unsettled science.” Oklahoma has experienced a remarkable rise in earthquake activity in recent years.  According to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the state

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Posted in Causation, Earthquake, Earthquake Insurance, Regulation

New Jersey Trial Court Holds Storm Surge Not Subject to Flood Sublimit Where Policy Expressly Includes “Ensuing Storm Surge” in Named Windstorm Coverage

In recent years, many courts have held that storm surge is a species of excluded flood loss; we reported on a New York example in July.  This week, in Public Serv. Enter. Group, v. ACE Amer. Ins. Co., 2015 WL 1428370, Unpub. LEXIS 620 (N.J.Super., Mar. 23, 2015), a New Jersey trial court granted summary judgment to Public Service Electric & Gas (PSEG) and held that the flood sublimit did not apply to a claim for Superstorm Sandy loss from storm surge where the contracts of insurance specifically recited that coverage for a “named windstorm” – which was not subject to any sublimit  –  included “ensuing storm surge.” Eight large PSEG generating stations and a number of smaller distribution facilities

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Posted in Causation, Efficient Proximate Cause, Ensuing Loss, Flood, Superstorm Sandy, Windstorm

Anti-Sequential Causation Clause Upheld in Hurricane Irene Case in New Jersey

In Ashrit Realty, LLC v. Tower National Ins. Co., 2015 WL 248490, 2015 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 107 (N.J.Super.Ct., App.Div., Jan. 20,  2015), New Jersey’s Appellate Division held that an anti-concurrent/anti-sequential causation clause precluded coverage for a Hurricane Irene loss.  A covered peril (hidden decay) led to an excluded peril (soil erosion), bringing down part of the insured’s structure.  As the court explained, such a provision “excludes coverage in situations where a covered event and an excluded event contribute, concurrently or sequentially, to a single loss.”  While the New Jersey Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on anti-concurrent/anti-sequential causation clauses, the case adds to growing body of lower court decisions holding or suggesting that such provisions are valid and

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Posted in Anti-Concurrent Causation, Causation, Collapse, Hurricane, Hurricane Irene, Seepage or Leakage

Texas Limits Scope of Anti-Technicality Statute and Material Breach Doctrine in Vacancy Clause Case

Last week, the Texas Supreme Court handed down an opinion that involved two unique (and somewhat troublesome) creatures of state law – the so-called “anti-technicality” statute and the material breach doctrine – and in Greene v. Farmer’s Ins. Exc., 2014 WL 4252271, 2014 Tex. LEXIS 758 (Tex., Aug. 29, 2014), it effectively limited the scope of both.  The court thereby gave effect to a provision in a homeowners policy that suspended coverage if a dwelling was allowed to remain vacant for more than sixty days. The case arose after Lewayne Greene moved into a retirement community, vacating her home in Irving, Texas and placing the structure on the market.  She notified her insurer of the move, but she did not

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Posted in Causation, Fire, Prejudice, Vacant or Unoccupied
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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