Colin Willmott

All articles by Colin Willmott

 

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars: Seventh Circuit Parses Through Insured’s Gamesmanship to Find No CGL Coverage for Settlement of Faulty Workmanship Claim

In Allied Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Metro North Condominium Ass’n, No. 16-1868, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4107 (March 8, 2017), the Seventh Circuit found coverage unavailable for a settlement of a lawsuit against a subcontractor alleged to have improperly installed windows at a condominium building. The court’s holding, in essence, was that the bases for the settlement were inconsistent with the claims against the subcontractor, and the only such viable claims could not possibly have been covered under
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Illinois Coverage Litigations Beware! Attorney’s Failure to Properly Investigate Results in Severe Sanctions

In American Access Casually Co. v. Alcauter, 2017 IL App (1st) 160775, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed the district court’s imposition of sanctions against the plaintiffs, American Access Casually Company (AACC) and its coverage counsel, James Newman, pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137. Specifically, the Appellate Court held that there were sufficient grounds to uphold the sanctions because of the plaintiffs’ failure to properly investigate the continuing validity of their lawsuit, their failure to turn over pertinent
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Gotta Keep Em Separated: District Court Rejects Theory of Coverage that Trademark Infringement Suit Constitutes Trade Dress or Slogan Infringement under Coverage B

In H5G, LLC v. Selective Insurance Company, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23937 (S.D. Oh. Feb. 21, 2017), an Ohio federal district court granted an insurer’s motion for summary judgment with respect to its obligations to defend or indemnify its insured against an underlying trademark infringement suit. In the underlying suit, High 5 Sportswear (High Five) alleged H5G infringed its trademarks and committed cybersquatting. H5G’s CGL policy issued by Selective Insurance Company afforded coverage for the infringement of another’s copyright, trade
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Engineering Firm Gets Soaked By Professional Services Exclusions in Water Treatment Plant Claim

In an unpublished decision, the Sixth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision judgment in favor of two insurers. Specifically, the Sixth Circuit broadly construed professional services exclusions to preclude coverage. As background, the Village of Dexter in Michigan hired an engineering and architecture firm, Orchard, Hiltz, & McCliment, Inc. (OHM), to oversee the upgrade of a wastewater treatment plant. The project included both the design and construction phases. Notably, Dexter approved three OHM proposals for professional engineering services. In addition,
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A Bad Faith Cautionary Tale: Ninth Circuit Affirms $8.7 Million Award for Bad Faith Coverage Denial

In Millennium Laboratories, Inc. v. Darwin Select Insurance Co., No. 15-55227, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 1533 (9th Cir. Jan. 27, 2017), the Ninth Circuit held that Darwin Select Insurance Company breached its duty to defend its insured, Millennium Laboratories, Inc., against two third-party lawsuits (Ameritox and Calloway). The court further held that Darwin’s failure to defend Millennium was in bad faith. As background, Millennium filed a complaint seeking coverage regarding two underlying lawsuits alleging Millennium told its customers that its
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No Duty, No Problem: Seventh Circuit Finds Absence of Duty for Insurance Broker to Non-Client in Connection with Fraudulent Insurance Scheme

The Seventh Circuit recently handed down a decision in which it refused to recognize a negligence claim against an insurance broker which would have expanded the duties of brokers and agents beyond those articulated in the Illinois Insurance Placement Liability Act (IIPLA), 735 ILCS 5/2 2201. In M.G. Skinner & Associates Insurance Agency v. Norman-Spencer Agency, Inc., No. 15-2290, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 63 (7th Cir. Jan. 4, 2017), the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment
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What’s Yours is Mine and What’s Mine Isn’t Covered: Illinois Federal Court Rejects Coverage for Suit Seeking Restitution

In Westport Insurance Corp. v. M.L. Sullivan Insurance Agency, Inc., No. 15 C 7294, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1527 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 5, 2017), an Illinois federal district court underscored the importance of a policy’s damages requirement when it granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of Westport Insurance Corporation and against its insured M.L. Sullivan Insurance Agency. In the underlying suit, American Inter-Fidelity Exchange (AIFE) alleged Sullivan and one of its employees provided false information about insurance premiums due
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A Contract by Any Other Name Would … Still Be a Contract: Wisconsin Court of Appeals Enforces Breach of Contract Exclusions to Preclude Coverage for Business Competition Claim

In Great Lakes Beverages, LLC v. Wochinski (Jan. 18, 2017), the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that AMCO had no duty to defend or indemnify its insured against the underlying third-party tortious interference with contract claim because the breach of contract exclusions applicable to personal and advertising injury squarely applied. As background, K-Way Systems contracted with Wochinski to purchase his company. The purchase agreement contained an asset purchase agreement, a covenant not to compete, and a supply agreement. Relations between
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Five Yards for Encroachment: Prematurity Doctrines Found to Preclude Insurer’s Use of Extrinsic Evidence to Evade Coverage

In Pekin Insurance Co. v. St. Paul Lutheran Church, 2016 IL App (4th) 150966, the Illinois Appellate Court refused, based on the Prematurity Doctrine, to consider extrinsic evidence in an insurer’s declaratory judgment action in connection with an underlying wrongful death suit. As background, Hope Farney, as administrator of the estate of Kitty Mullins, sued St. Paul Lutheran Church (Church) for wrongful death. She alleged that a Church employee, Matthew Geerdes, used his personal vehicle for Church business and negligently
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Don’t Let The Door Hit You on the Way Out: Insurer Loses Coverage Suit Involving Injuries Sustained By Fitting Room Door

In Selective Insurance Co. of South Carolina v. Target Corporation, No. 16-1669, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23370 (7th Cir. Dec. 29, 2016), the Seventh Circuit affirmed an Illinois district court’s decision finding coverage for an additional insured after parsing through the language of two contractual agreements. The coverage dispute arose when a customer shopping at a Target store was injured after a fitting room door came off and fell on her in December 2011. The customer filed suit against Target,
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No Magic Words Needed To Trigger Application of the Construction Contract Anti-Indemnification Statute Says Illinois Appellate Court

In Pekin Insurance Co. v. Designed Equipment Acquisition Corp., 2016 IL App (1st) 151689, the Illinois Appellate Court examined a common issue for insurance carriers in disputes involving construction site injuries. In particular, the Appellate Court provided helpful clarification with respect to the application of the Construction Contract Indemnification for Negligence Act (Act), also known as the anti-indemnification statute. The circumstances at issue involved a rental agreement between Abel Building & Restoration and Designed Equipment Acquisition Corporation, whereby Designed leased
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No Complaint, No Duty to Defend: An Insurer’s Duty To Defend Does Not Arise from Unfiled Draft Complaints

In Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co. v. Pace Suburban Bus Service, 2016 IL App (1st) 151659, the Illinois Appellate Court provided keen insights into when the duty to defend is triggered and when an action for equitable contribution can be maintained. As background, Pace Suburban Bus Services and Countryside Association for People with Disabilities entered into a leasing agreement whereby Pace would provide Countryside with a van, which would be driven by a Countryside employee, for the purposes of transporting disabled
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Seventh Circuit Recognizes Illinois Law to Allow Extrinsic Evidence in Evaluating an Insurer’s Duty to Defend

The Seventh Circuit recently handed down a decision encouraging Illinois courts to consider evidence beyond the complaint and the insurance policy when evaluating an insurer’s duty to defend. In Landmark American Insurance Co. v. Hilger, 838 F.3d 821 (7th Cir. 2016), the Seventh Circuit reviewed a district court’s judgment on the pleadings favor of a purported insured in a declaratory judgment suit filed by Landmark American Insurance Company. At issue was whether Peter Hilger was covered as an insured in
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Two Illinois Federal Decisions Highlight the Dangers of Consent Judgments for Insurers

Two related decisions handed down this year by an Illinois federal district court involve thorny issues emanating from a multi-million dollar consent judgment. In the first decision, the district court denied cross-motions for summary judgment brought by the insurer and the underlying claimant in relation to a $14 million consent judgment. Specifically, the district court held the reasonableness of the settlement could not be resolved by summary judgment. In order for a consent judgment to be reasonable, Illinois uses the
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The Irony of Not Fixing What Isn’t Broken: Wisconsin Supreme Court Refuses to Consider Extrinsic Evidence of Subcontractors’ Involvement in Replacement of Damaged Well Pump

Bootstrapping upon its decision in Marks v. Houston Casualty Co., 2016 WI 53, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Water Well Solutions Service Group Inc. v. Consolidated Insurance Co., 2016 WI 54, affirmed summary judgment in favor of the insurer. The Supreme Court concluded, based upon a four-corners analysis, that the policy’s “your product” exclusion barred coverage entirely for the underlying lawsuit. The Supreme Court further rejected the insured’s invitation to recognize an exception to the four-corners rule to allow courts
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Impactful Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision Overturns “Unsound” Precedent

In Marks v. Houston Casualty Company, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reached a decision upholding the application of a business enterprise exclusion in a professional liability policy. Importantly, the decision clarifies Wisconsin law such that an insurer may rely upon policy exclusions in denying coverage outright. The coverage dispute arose out of six lawsuits filed against David Marks for his involvement in various enterprises across different industries. The lawsuits generally alleged Marks, as an officer or director of numerous entities (including
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Illinois Appellate Court Rejects Coverage for Junk Fax Class Action Settlement and Calls TCPA Class Action Attorneys to Task

The Illinois Appellate Court recently offered greater protection to insurance companies from liability emanating from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) and fervently condemned the reality of class action settlements rewarding only class counsel. In First Mercury Insurance Co. v. Nationwide Security Services., 2016 IL App (1st) 143924 (May 18, 2016), the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment that First Mercury had no duty to indemnify the class (as assignees) with respect to a settlement reached in
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Third-Party Complaints and the Duty to Defend – Another Decision Cementing Existing Precedent

In Pekin Insurance Company v. Illinois Cement Company, LLC, the Illinois Appellate Court again addressed the important issue of when third-party complaints can be used in evaluating an insurer’s duty to defend. Due to the circumstances surrounding the third-party complaint in question, the Appellate Court held that it was self-serving and could not be used to show that a putative additional insured was vicariously liable for the acts of the insured. The facts underlying the coverage dispute involve an action
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Up in Smoke: An Insurer Could Not Mount a Successful Coverage Defense Due to Vague Allegations in an E-Cigarette Lawsuit

An Illinois federal district court determined in Diamond State Insurance Company v. Duke that an insurer had a duty to defend its insured in a case involving alleged disparagement. This decision reminds insurers that courts have the ability to the allegations of the underlying complaint even more broadly than ever expected. The underlying lawsuit was brought by, in pertinent part, DR Distributors, LLC against 21 Century Smoking, Inc. alleging, causes of action for counterfeiting and trademark infringement under the Lanham
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Insurers May Need a Doctor’s Note: Data Breach of Medical Records Triggers Coverage, Says Fourth Circuit

On Monday, April 11, 2016, the Fourth Circuit handed down a notable, albeit unpublished, decision with regard to an issue that has vexed the insurance industry, namely, do data breaches trigger a CGL insurer’s duty to defend under Coverage B? In Travelers Indemnity Company of America v. Portal Healthcare Solutions, L.L.C., the Fourth Circuit determined, under Virginia law, the underlying class action lawsuit, indeed, triggered Travelers’ duty to defend. The underlying lawsuit was a class action complaint filed against, in
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It’s Not a Blob, It’s a Probiotic: Wisconsin Supreme Court Applies the “Integrated Systems” Rule in Coverage Dispute

In Wisconsin Pharmacal Company, LLC v. Nebraska Cultures of California, Inc., 2016 WI 14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court applied the “integrated systems” rule to a coverage dispute. In a narrow decision, it reversed the Court of Appeals decision and determined that the incorporation of a defective ingredient into a tablet did not constitute “property damage” caused by an “occurrence.” Further, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded that even if “property damage” was alleged, exclusions would apply to bar coverage. The coverage
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Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say, Says California Federal District Court

A California federal district court determined a standard Breach of Contract Exclusion under Coverage B of a CGL policy did not preclude the duty to defend for alleged disparagement. In MedeAnalytics, Inc. v. Federal Insurance Co., the United States District Court for the Northern District of California interpreted the exclusion very narrowly, finding it applied only to actual — and not alleged — breaches of contract and found a duty to defend. As background, the claimant alleged the policyholder made
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Don’t Believe the Hype: Over-Touting One’s Own Products Triggers Non-Conformity Exclusion

A Virginia federal court rendered an important decision on product disparagement coverage, holding that a policy’s Non-Conformity Exclusion barred coverage for the underlying false advertising claim. In Selective Way Insurance Co. v. Crawl Space Door System, Inc., the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia was confronted with the question of whether there was coverage for a suit between two competing vent vendors, Crawl Space Door System, Inc. (CSD) and Smart Vent Products. Smart Vent had sued
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Not Better Late Than Never: Illinois Appellate Court Finds in Favor of Insurer on Late Notice Defense

The Illinois Appellate Court, in AMCO Insurance Co. v. Erie Insurance Co., ruled in favor of a CGL insurer based on an additional insured’s violation of the policy’s notice condition. This case represents a significant victory for insurers, which are constantly searching for the enforcement of conditions precedent to coverage. The Appellate Court held in favor of Erie Insurance Co. based on a late notice defense. As background, on March 15, 2007, Smith filed a negligence action against Hartz Construction
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Wisconsin’s Strict Exhaustion Requirement Burns Insurer

In Burgraff v. Menard, Inc., 2016 WI 11 (Wis. 2016), the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision that determined Millers First Insurance Company breached its continuing duty to defend Menard, Inc. Specifically, the issue was whether Millers First should have continued its defense of Menard even after it reached a settlement with the plaintiff, Kenneth Burgraff, for its proportionate share of the claim. This is an important decision which reiterates the strict requirements of complete exhaustion in
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Another Nail in the Junk Fax Coffin: Wisconsin Joins Illinois, California, Michigan, and Oklahoma in Finding No Coverage for TCPA Suits

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held in a recent decision that a standard TCPA exclusion precludes coverage for all causes of action brought by the plaintiff that emanated from the unauthorized sending of faxes. This includes a common law conversion cause of action, as well as a cause of action for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). As background, in State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Easy PC Solutions, LLC, No. 2014AP2657, 2015 Wisc. App. LEXIS 855
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A Sporting Retailer’s Bid for Coverage Gets Punted by the Ninth Circuit

The Ninth Circuit recently handed down a decision holding that insurers did not have a duty to defend their policyholder, a sporting goods retailer, in several ZIP code class action lawsuits.  The class action lawsuit all arose out of alleged violations of the Song-Beverly Act, a California statute which prohibits retailers from collecting customer ZIP code information as a purported requirement of credit card transactions. The court held that policy exclusions negated coverage. In Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. v.
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Holy Stromboli! Grocer Loses Coverage and Bad Faith Battle Against Excess Carrier

In Charter Oak Insurance Company v. Maglio Fresh Foods, No. 14-4094, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 19268 (3d Cir. Nov. 4, 2015), the Third Circuit held that because the underlying lawsuit did not present a covered “advertising injury” claim, and there was no exhaustion of the primary policy, the insured’s excess carrier could not have acted in bad faith. As background, the underlying plaintiff, Leonetti’s, a supplier and competitor of Maglio Fresh Foods, brought a lawsuit against Maglio. First, the “Maglio
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No Coverage for Consumer Privacy Claims Say Third Circuit and Seventh Circuit

In two recent cases, the Third Circuit and Seventh Circuit each found an absence of coverage under general liability policies resulting from consumer privacy claims, one for alleged violations of a state ZIP code statute and another for alleged violations of a state unauthorized recording statute. Since both cases involved coverage for class action lawsuits seeking statutory damages, these are big wins for insurers. First, the Third Circuit in OneBeacon America Insurance Co. v. Urban Outfitters, Inc., No 14-2976, 2015
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“It Wasn’t Me, It Was Lil Johnny!” Wisconsin District Court Holds Third-Party Publication Triggers Prior Publication Exclusion

In Design Basics LLC v. J & V Roberts Investments, Inc., No. 14-cv-1083-JPS, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121372 (E.D. Wis. Sept. 11, 2015), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin determined, in pertinent part, that in a case involving allegations of copyright infringement, a commercial general liability insurer, Acuity A Mutual Insurance Company (Acuity), had no duty to defend because the prior publication exclusion barred coverage. The dispute arose when the plaintiffs, who are engaged in
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Moldy Water Keep on Rollin’: Mold Exclusion Does Not Apply to Claims Based on Mold-Infested Water

In Acuity v. Reed & Associates of Tennessee, LLC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109412 (W.D. Tenn. August 19, 2015), the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee determined that an insurer had the duty to defend its policyholder in a case involving mold, even though the subject policy included a Fungi or Bacteria Exclusion (“Mold Exclusion”).  The court found that allegations of moldy water fell within an exception to the Mold Exclusion as a “product” or “good”
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Blurred Lines Between Trademark and Trade Dress: Fifth Circuit Rules on “Web-Dress” Infringement

In Test Masters Educational Services, Inc. v. State Farm Lloyds, No. 14-20473, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 11148 (5th Cir. June 29, 2015), the Fifth Circuit affirmed a district court’s ruling that the amended counterclaim in the underlying lawsuit did not trigger a duty to defend on the basis of trade dress infringement. The underlying dispute arose from the ongoing legal saga between Test Masters Educational Services, Inc. (TES) and Robin Singh Educational Services, Inc. Both entities provided test preparation services
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Tenth Circuit Reminds Insurer Cannot Use the Attorney-Client Privilege as Both a Sword and a Shield

The Tenth Circuit in Seneca Insurance Co. v. Western Claims, Inc., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 24172 (10th Cir. Dec. 22, 2014), affirmed a district court’s decision to allow the discovery and admission into evidence of correspondence between Seneca Insurance Company (Seneca) and its counsel regarding the underlying hail damage claim and litigation.  The Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court’s finding that Seneca put the advice of the attorneys at issue, thereby waiving the attorney-client privilege. The underlying dispute stemmed
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Independent Contractors Fall within Employment-Related Practices Exclusions Says First Circuit

In Ruksznis v. Argonaut Insurance Co., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 23881 (1st Cir. Dec. 18, 2014), the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Argonaut Insurance Company (Argonaut), finding that the employment-related practices exclusion in the subject Commercial General Liability Policy and Public Officials Liability Policy barred coverage. The underlying dispute arose out of a lawsuit filed by Frank Ruksznis, the former plumbing inspector for the Town of Sangerville (the Town), against Lance Burgess,
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Oregon Federal District Court Rejects Coverage for Trademark Infringement Under Coverage B

In Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Co, v. Willowood USA, LLC, et al., Civ. No. 6:13-cv-01923-MC, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153363 (D. Or. Oct. 27, 2014), the district court of Oregon granted summary judgment in favor of Crum & Specialty Insurance Company, Allied World Assurance Company, and Colony Insurance Company, finding that they had no duty to defend Willowood USA, LLC (Willowood). The underlying suit arose out of a dispute between two companies, Repar and Willowood, in the business of
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