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Pennsylvania Court Orders Production of Underwriting Files On Similar Claims By Other Policyholders

Carriers routinely resist efforts to compel production of the underwriting and claims files on other policyholders on the basis of relevance.  Early last month in H.J. Heinz Co. v. Starr Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 2015 WL 5781295, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138080, (W.D.Pa., Oct. 1, 2015), an insurer lost that fight when a federal court in Pennsylvania required it to produce the files.  The case is noteworthy, but arguably limited in terms of its application to other disputes.  A Phase One trial was directed solely to the insurer’s efforts to rescind the policy because of material misrepresentations in the application, and discovery addressing whether the insured was being treated the same way as other similarly-situated policyholders was uniquely important given

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Posted in Contamination, Contamination and Product Recall, Discovery, Rescission

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

Pennsylvania Court: Inaction When Damage is Known to Be Likely is Enough to Render the Loss Non-Fortuitous

On September 19th, a federal court in Pennsylvania held that a wall collapse was not fortuitous because the insureds knew that the wall was unstable and likely to fall and yet took no steps to correct the problem.  No one could say the loss was certain to happen, but the court effectively held that the insureds’ inaction was enough to make the collapse non-fortuitous given the likelihood that the wall would fail if it wasn’t repaired or braced.  The decision is Fry v. Phoenix Ins. Co., 2014 WL 4662481, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131504 (E.D.Pa., Sept. 19, 2014). The Frys owned a home in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania.  The house was a wood-frame structure with a stone veneer, and they noticed that

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Posted in Collapse, Fortuity, Water, Wear and Tear

Pennsylvania Court Addresses What Is a Coverage Dispute for Appraisal Purposes

Last month, a Pennsylvania federal court rejected the notion that a dispute over whether an admittedly covered occurrence necessitated repair of certain discrete portions of the damaged structure was a coverage dispute, characterizing it instead as merely a dispute over the extent of loss.  As a result, Currie v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 2014 WL 4081051, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117970 (E.D.Pa., Aug. 19, 2014) held that the insurer could not refuse appraisal and stated that it was being “disingenuous” in arguing otherwise. The Curries were the owners of a home in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.  When Superstorm Sandy struck on October 29, 2012, the structure took a direct hit from a tree on the property.  The insurer, State Farm

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Posted in Arbitration and Appraisal, Bad Faith, Homeowners Coverage, Loss Adjustment, Superstorm Sandy

Insurers Say “Over My Dead Body” to Claims for Damage From Decomposition

Last April saw decisions handed down in Pennsylvania and Florida that addressed the ghoulish question of whether first-party policies cover property damage from a decomposing body, and the courts in both jurisdictions held that the answer in no.  A word of warning – the balance of this post is not for the squeamish. The first decision was Certain Underwriters at Lloyds of London v. Creagh, — Fed.Appx. —, 2014 WL 1408868 (3rd Cir. , April 14, 2014).  The insured owned a building in Philadelphia where a tenant died in the bathroom of a second floor apartment.  The body went undiscovered for two weeks, by which time bodily fluids had seeped through the floor, contaminating both the apartment itself and parts

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Posted in Decomposition, Explosion, Microorganisms, Seepage or Leakage
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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