Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Insurance Law
Truck Insurance Exchange v. Federal Insurance Co.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying Federal's special motion to strike a civil complaint for fraud as a strategic lawsuit against public participation under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, as well as the trial court's order overruling its evidentiary objections. In the underlying action, plaintiffs filed lawsuits against Moldex, alleging Moldex manufactured defective air respirators and masks that failed to protect them. This litigation ensued between Truck, Federal, and First State over coverage and the extent to which Truck was obligated to reimburse Federal and First State for payments made for Moldex's defense and indemnity, plus interest. Federal argued that Truck's complaint for fraud is based on Federal's "acts in furtherance of its right to petition" and are thus protected speech pursuant to section 425.16, subdivisions (e)(1) and (e)(2).The court affirmed the trial court's rulings on Federal's evidentiary objections and concluded that the first amended complaint is not relevant to the court's review of the anti-SLAPP motion. The court also affirmed Federal's special motion to strike Truck's complaint for fraud, concluding that Federal met its burden of showing that Truck's complaint for fraud arises from Federal's protected activity, and that the trial court correctly found that Truck met its burden to establish a probability of success on the merits of its fraud cause of action.In this case, a factfinder considering all the circumstances could reasonably conclude that when Truck signed the July 2013 settlement agreeing to pay nearly $5 million to Federal and to dismiss its pending appeal of the February 2013 judgment, it did so in reasonable reliance on Federal's course of conduct and Federal's stated position that it had a duty to defend Moldex pursuant to its policy. Furthermore, Truck agreed to file a request for dismissal of its pending appeal, with prejudice, when it entered the settlement agreement, which further supports a finding of extrinsic fraud by Federal. Finally, Federal is mistaken in its belief that Truck "released the claim for which it now seeks damages" by signing the July 2013 settlement agreement. View "Truck Insurance Exchange v. Federal Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) requires covered employers to provide women with “preventive care and screenings” without cost-sharing requirements and relies on Preventive Care Guidelines “supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration” (HRSA) to define “preventive care and screenings,” 42 U.S.C. 300gg–13(a)(4). Those Guidelines mandate that health plans cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods. When the Federal Departments incorporated the Guidelines, they gave HRSA the discretion to exempt religious employers from providing contraceptive coverage. Later, the Departments promulgated a rule accommodating qualifying religious organizations, allowing them to opt out of coverage by self-certifying that they met certain criteria to their health insurance issuer, which would then exclude contraceptive coverage from the employer’s plan and provide participants with separate payments for contraceptive services without any cost-sharing requirements.In its 2014 “Hobby Lobby” decision, the Supreme Court held that the contraceptive mandate substantially burdened the free exercise of closely-held corporations with sincerely held religious objections. In a later decision, the Court remanded challenges to the self-certification accommodation so that the parties could develop an approach that would accommodate employers’ concerns while providing women full and equal coverage.The Departments then promulgated interim final rules. One significantly expanded the church exemption to include an employer that objects, based on its sincerely held religious beliefs, to coverage or payments for contraceptive services. Another created an exemption for employers with sincerely held moral objections to providing contraceptive coverage. The Third Circuit affirmed a preliminary nationwide injunction against the implementation of the rules.The Supreme Court reversed. The Departments had the authority under the ACA to promulgate the exemptions. Section 300gg–13(a)(4) states that group health plans must provide preventive care and screenings “as provided for” in comprehensive guidelines, granting HRSA sweeping authority to define that preventive care and to create exemptions from its Guidelines. Concerns that the exemptions thwart Congress’ intent by making it significantly harder for women to obtain seamless access to contraception without cost-sharing cannot justify supplanting that plain meaning. “It is clear ... that the contraceptive mandate is capable of violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” The rules promulgating the exemptions are free from procedural defects. View "Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law
Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Mitchell
After DNA evidence exonerated Phillip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon, and Larry Ruffin, who spent a collective 83 years in prison for the rape and murder of a woman in Forrest County, their estates filed a civil rights law suit against the County. At issue in this appeal was whether two of the County's law enforcement liability policies require the insurers to defend the civil rights suit.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that there is a duty to defend, because the policies are triggered when injuries occur during the policy period, even though the wrongful acts that caused the injuries occurred before the policy period. In this case, the provisions of the Travelers and Scottsdale policies cover bodily injuries occurring during the policy period, and the estates' complaint alleges those injuries during the relevant time periods. Therefore, both insurers have a duty to defend the County and its officers. View "Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Mitchell" on Justia Law
Warnke-Green v. Pro-West Contractors, LLC
The Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board denied a Bryce Warnke-Green's request that his employer pay for a van modified to accommodate his work-related disability. On appeal, the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission decided that a modifiable van was a compensable medical benefit. Warnke-Green moved for attorney’s fees. The Commission reduced the attorney’s hourly rate, deducted a few time entries, and awarded him less than half of what was requested. Warnke-Green asked the Commission to reconsider its award, but the Commission declined to do so because of its view that the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) allowed it to reconsider only the final decision on the merits of an appeal. The Alaska Supreme Court granted Warnke-Green's petition for review, and held that the Commission had the necessarily incidental authority to reconsider its non-final decisions. The Court also reversed the Commission’s award of attorney’s fees and remanded for an award that was fully compensable and reasonable. View "Warnke-Green v. Pro-West Contractors, LLC" on Justia Law
Floeting v. Grp. Health Coop.
Christopher Floeting alleged a Group Health Cooperative employee repeatedly sexually harassed him while he was seeking medical treatment. He sued Group Health for the unwelcome and offensive sexual conduct under the Washington Law Against Discrimination, which made it unlawful for any person or the person's agency or employee to commit an act of discrimination in any place of public accommodation. The trial court dismissed on summary judgment, pursuant to Group Health's argument the employment discrimination standard applied. The Court of Appeals reversed. Group Health argued the Washington Supreme Court should import workplace sexual harassment doctrines into the public accommodations context, thereby limiting its employer liability. Declining to do so, the Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court. View "Floeting v. Grp. Health Coop." on Justia Law
Samelko v. Kingstone Insurance Co.
Exercising jurisdiction over Defendant-insurer under the circumstances of this case was permitted by Connectictut’s corporate long arm statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. 33-929(f)(1), and comported with the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.Defendant issued an automobile insurance policy covering a vehicle driven by Insured. The policy was written in New York at Defendant’s principal place of business, and Defendant did not direct or participate in any business transactions in Connecticut at the time. The coverage territory of the policy included Connecticut. Insured’s vehicle later collided with a vehicle occupied by Plaintiffs. A judgment was rendered against Insured in favor of Plaintiffs. Defendant failed to defend Insured or to indemnify him for the judgment rendered against him. Plaintiffs then brought this action against Defendant. Defendant moved to dismiss the action for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant’s agreement to defend and indemnify Insured established personal jurisdiction under the long arm statute and that subjecting Defendant to the jurisdiction of this state comported with the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. View "Samelko v. Kingstone Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Best Auto Repair Shop, Inc. v. Universal Insurance Group
The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration of the district court’s grant of summary judgment dismissing all of their claims against various insurance companies and certain of those companies’ employees under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and Puerto Rico law. The complaint alleged that Defendants unlawfully interfered with Plaintiffs’ right to “make or enforce” existing and prospective contracts with Defendants’ insureds or third-party claimants. The district court granted summary judgment on all claims against Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, largely on waiver grounds, holding (1) Plaintiffs expressly waived certain issues on appeal by failing to raise them in their opening brief; and (2) Plaintiffs’ remaining claims on appeal were unavailing. View "Best Auto Repair Shop, Inc. v. Universal Insurance Group" on Justia Law
Faria v. Harleysville Worcester Insurance Co.
Plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against their insurance carrier (Defendant), claiming that Defendant had incorrectly denied coverage. The case proceeded to a jury trial. The jury’s unanimous verdict was for Defendant. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial after learning that the jury foreperson had a prior felony conviction, arguing that the juror was not qualified to serve on the jury under 28 U.S.C. 1865(b)(5). The district court denied the motion for a new trial, concluding that Plaintiffs had not shown that the juror’s service deprived them of a fundamentally fair trial. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the juror’s inclusion was not fatal to the jury’s verdict, and therefore, the district court properly denied Plaintiffs’ new-trial motion. View "Faria v. Harleysville Worcester Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Commonwealth, Div. of Risk Mgmt. v. Va. Ass’n of Counties Group Self Ins. Risk Pool
A pretrial detainee asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against guards and nurses at a regional jail. The jail authority had purchased a general liability insurance policy (the VaCorp Policy) from the Virginia Association of Counties Group Self Insurance Risk Pool (Risk Pool Association) and also elected to participate in a government-sponsored insurance program (the VaRISK Plan) managed by the Division of Risk Management (DRM). While the federal suit was pending, the detainee filed a declaratory judgment action against DRM and the Risk Pool Association seeking a determination of their respective liabilities for insuring the jail defendants. The Risk Pool Association and the DRM filed opposing third-party claims for declaratory relief. The detainee later settled with the jail defendants. The circuit court concluded (1) the VaRISK Plan was the sole primary coverage and that the DRM had the exclusive duty to defend the jail defendants, and (2) the Risk Pool Association had no duty to contribute toward the defense costs incurred by the jail defendants in the federal suit. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the VaCorp Policy and VaRISK Plan provided co-primary liability coverage to the jail defendants; and (2) VaRISK Plan’s $2 million coverage extension applicable to medical malpractice claims did not apply to the section 1983 civil rights claim alleging violations of federal constitutional law. Remanded. View "Commonwealth, Div. of Risk Mgmt. v. Va. Ass'n of Counties Group Self Ins. Risk Pool" on Justia Law
Selective Ins. Co. of Am. v. County of Rensselaer
In 2002, Plaintiffs commenced a proposed class action civil rights suit against the County of Rensselaer. The County invoked Selective Insurance Company’s duty to provide a defense under the policies that the company sold to the County. Selective agreed to defend the County in the action, subject to the insurance policy limits and the deductible. Selective’s counsel and the County agreed to settle the actions for $1,000 per plaintiff, determined to be slightly more than 800 individuals in total, with attorney fees also being recoverable. Selective abided by the terms of the settlement. The County, however, refused to pay Selective more than a single deductible payment. Selective then commenced this action for money damages, arguing that each class member was subject to a separate deductible. Supreme Court concluded that a separate deductible payment applied to each class member and that all legal fees should be allocated to one policy. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the class action suit did not constitute one occurrence under the relevant policies’ definition of “occurrence” and that the attorney’s fees generated in defending that suit were properly allocated to the named plaintiff. View "Selective Ins. Co. of Am. v. County of Rensselaer" on Justia Law