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Fourth Circuit: Twenty-Seven Days of Inaction Enough to Waive Right to Rescind for Violations of Protective Safeguards Clause

The marriage liturgy in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer contains the well-known line “speak now or forever hold your peace,” and the take-away from a recent Fourth Circuit decision out of North Carolina is clearly “act now or forever lose your rights.”  In Colony Ins. Co. v. Peterson, — Fed.Appx. —, 2014 WL 4179962, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 16320 (4th Cir., Aug. 25, 2014), a divided panel of the Court of Appeals held that an insurer had to pay a $2.5 million fire loss even though the policyholders had made material misrepresentations in their application and violated a protective safeguards endorsement.  The carrier was deemed to have waived its right to rescind and to be estopped from denying coverage

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Posted in Arson, Arson and Fraud, Fire, Inspection, Protective Safeguards, Rescission, Waiver

Florida Insurer Waives Two-Year Requirement by Waiting That Long to First Raise It

In Axis Surplus Ins. Co. v. Caribbean Beach Club Assn., 2014 WL 2900930 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App., June 27, 2014), a Florida court recently held that the insurer could not rely on a policy requirement that conditioned recovery of the cost of complying with current building codes during reconstruction on having completed the work within two years of the loss.  The insurer waived the two-year requirement by failing to raise it until the entire two years had elapsed and choosing to spend that time cooperating with the policyholder’s efforts to determine the necessary scope of repair instead. The insured, Caribbean Beach Club Association, owned a time-share condominium building in Fort Myers that was heavily damaged by fire in April 2003.  It had property

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Posted in Fire, Ordinance or Law, Waiver

Waiver of Attorney-Client and Work-Product – You Can’t Be Just a Little Bit Pregnant

A recent Mississippi opinion dramatically underscores the dangers of an advice-of-counsel defense.  In Willis v. Allstate Ins. Co., — F.Supp.2d —, 2014 WL 1882387 (S.D.Miss., May 12, 2014), the court held that the insurer had waived both the attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine with respect to coverage counsel’s entire file – and not just that portion of it that the carrier was willing to produce – when its representatives testified that they relied on the attorney’s advice to deny liability.  As the saying goes, in for a penny, in for a pound. The policyholder Sandra Willis’ home was damaged by a fire on June 14, 2012, and she made a claim under her homeowner’s policy with Allstate Insurance Company. 

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Posted in Fire, Privilege, U.S. Legal System, Waiver
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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