Blog Archives

New York Court Holds Public Adjuster Entitled to Fee Even Though Claim Settled After Ten Years Of Litigation

Disputes between the insured and its public adjuster (PA) are frequently contentious and have the unfortunate potential to draw the carrier into litigation.  A perfect example is last week’s decision in Public Adj. Bur., Inc. v. Greater N. Y. Mut. Ins. Co., et al., 2015 NY Slip OP 07942, 2015 WL 6510639, 2015 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 8000 (N.Y.App.Div., Oct. 29, 2015), where New York’s intermediate level appellate court held that the PA was entitled to its fee for performing “valuable services” even though those evidently ceased when suit was filed and it then took an additional ten years of bitter and protracted litigation to bring about a settlement. While not as prolonged and torturous as Dickens’ Jarndyce v. Jarndyce,

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Posted in Collapse, Loss Adjustment, Public Adjusters

California Court Adopts Expansive Reading of Contamination and Product Recall Coverage

Two weeks ago in Foster Poultry Farms, Inc. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138609, 2015 WL 5920289 (E.D.Cal., Oct. 9, 2015), a California Court applying New York law found coverage under a product contamination insurance policy for a loss of poultry caused by salmonella.  The Court allowed the recovery of decontamination expenses as “accidental contamination,” holding that the policyholder need only prove that there was a “reasonable probability” that consumption of its processed chicken would lead to bodily injury or sickness.  In addition, the Court rejected the insurers’ arguments that the undefined term “recall” was only applicable if the loss involved the of destruction of product already in the hands of customers, and it thereby

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Posted in Ambiguity, Contamination, Contamination and Product Recall, Product Recall, Uncategorized

New York Court: Broadly-Worded Flood Limit “Meaningless” Unless it Applies to Any Kind of Loss Caused by Flood

Yesterday in El-Ad West LLC v. Zurich American Ins. Co., 2015 WL 4078762, 2015 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 5753 (N.Y.App.Div., Jul. 7, 2015), a unanimous panel of New York’s intermediate level appellate court held that a flood sub-limit capped all loss caused by flood, without regard to whether it was physical damage to property or a “downstream” financial loss such as delay in completion.  In the words of the opinion, reading the contract of insurance in such a way as to find that the flood sub-limit did not apply to delay in completion losses “would render the flood limit meaningless with respect to that coverage.”  The panel thereby affirmed a Superstorm Sandy decision that we reported on in July of

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Posted in Builders' Risk, Delay in Completion, Flood, Superstorm Sandy

New York Court: Undefined Word “Occurrence” in a Deductible Provision Must be Construed by the Finder of Fact

Many property policies expressly define the term “occurrence” to encompass a series of similar and related events.  Last month, however, in Rokeach v. Hanover Ins. Co., 2015 WL 2400097, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6580 (May 19, 2015, S.D.N.Y.), a New York federal court held that when the word is employed in the policy’s deductible provision without either emphasis or quotation marks, it is effectively undefined, and the question of whether it should be understood to denote a single occurrence or a series of multiple occurrences must be determined by the jury. The policyholder operated a welding business in Uniondale, and the company stored scrap metal in an ungated yard on the property.  As summarized by the court, the undisputed facts were

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Posted in Ambiguity, Deductible, Occurrence, Theft or Dishonesty

Order of Civil Authority Claim for Superstorm Sandy Barred by Flooding Exclusion in New York

On Thursday of last week, a federal court in New York City tossed an Order of Civil Authority (OCA) claim by a New York City law firm in Bamundo, Zwal & Schermerhorn, LLP v. Sentinel Ins. Co., 2015 WL 1408873, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39409 (S.D.N.Y., Mar. 26, 2016).  The policy extended coverage to loss of business income caused by an OCA issued “as the result of a Covered Cause of Loss,” but it excluded flooding from the definition of that term. The insured was a law firm with offices on John Street in lower Manhattan.  On October 28, 2012, the Mayor of New York City issued an executive order evacuating all homes and business located in the area.  Superstorm

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Posted in Bad Faith, Flood, Order of Civil Authority, Superstorm Sandy

Silica Dust Damage Held Barred by Pollution and Faulty Workmanship Exclusions in New York

Building construction frequently generates silica dust, a substance that can cause lung disease and other respiratory problems.  Abrasive sand-blasting or jack hammering as well as concrete drilling and block cutting can lead to its release.  In Broome Cty. v. Travelers Indem. Co., – N.Y.S.2d –, 125 A.D.3d 1241, 2015 WL 790256, 2015 N.Y.App.Div. LEXIS 1706 (N.Y.App.Div., Feb. 26, 2015), a unanimous panel from New York’s intermediate level appellate court held that the pollution and faulty workmanship exclusions in a first-party policy barred coverage for the property damage when silica dust spread throughout an office building due to construction activities nearby. The insured was Broome County, the owner of a building in a government complex.  During the construction of a parking

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Posted in Ambiguity, Contamination, Faulty Workmanship or Design, Particulates, Pollution

New York’s Highest Court Enforces a Water Damage Exclusion Despite an Ensuing Loss Exception

In Platek v. Town of Hamberg, et al., 2015 WL 685726, 2015 N.Y. LEXIS 252 (N.Y., Feb. 19, 2015), the New York Court of Appeals held that an exclusion for water below the surface of the ground was unambiguous and operated to bar coverage when a subsurface water main burst and flooded the insureds’ basement.  The policyholders’ attempt to invoke an ensuing loss exception to the exclusion was also rejected in an opinion that surveys the historical genesis of ensuing loss provisions and explains the limited circumstances under which they operate to restore coverage. The insureds, Frederick and Mary Platek, owned a home in Hamberg, New York.  On September 7, 2010, a subsurface water main abutting their property ruptured, flooding

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Posted in Ambiguity, Burden of Proof, Ensuing Loss, Explosion, Flood, Water

California: Service of Suit Endorsement Trumps Forum Selection Clause in Case Involving Product Recall Due to Contamination.

On February 5th in a case involving the recall of over $500,000 worth of oyster products made from Korean shellfish, the Southern District of California held: (1) that the policy’s service of suit clause, which gave the insured the choice of forum, trumped a forum selection clause that provided for suit in a New York state court; (2) that California law, as opposed to New York law, applied, and (3) that for purposes of a 12(b)(6) motion, plaintiff’s complaint, which alleged potential contamination, was sufficient to state a claim.  The decision is Tri-Union Seafoods, LLC v. Starr Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 2015 WL 728477, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23441 (S.D.Cal., Feb. 5, 2015). The case arose after Tri-Union Seafoods initiated a

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Posted in Bad Faith, Contamination, Contamination and Product Recall

Second Circuit Affirms a Southern District Decision Construing “Covered Location” Narrowly

In January, the Southern District rejected an insured’s $2 million claim for a generator destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.  The unit was in the basement of an office building in lower Manhattan, but the contract of insurance defined “covered location” to mean the 33rd floor of the structure.  The district court rejected the policyholder’s argument that language insuring personal property “in buildings or structures at a ‘covered location’ “ extended coverage to the entire building including its basement.  On October 16th, a panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed this carrier-friendly interpretation in Jane Street Holding, LLC v. Aspen American Ins. Co., — Fed.Appx. –, 2014 WL 5287051, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 19905 (2d. Cir., Oct. 16, 2014). Jane Street Holding,

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Posted in Flood, Insured Premises, Superstorm Sandy, Water

Sixth Circuit Holds That Declines in Market Value are Not a Factor in Determining Actual Cash Value

In a case of first impression in Michigan, the federal Court of Appeals determined last month that general market conditions could not be considered when calculating actual cash value.  In Whitehouse Condominium Group, LLC v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., — Fed.Appx. —, 2014 WL 2743480 (6th Cir., June 17, 2014), the contract of insurance defined ACV as replacement cost less a number of factors including “obsolescence .”  The Sixth Circuit held that the word connoted only functional obsolescence as opposed to both functional and economic obsolescence. The policyholder owned a condominium building in Flint, Michigan that was heavily damaged by fire in November of 2010.  The policy afforded coverage for ACV, which was defined in the contract of insurance to mean

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Posted in Actual Cash Value, Depreciation, Fire, Loss Adjustment
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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