Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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Plaintiffs, vehicle owners, filed suit alleging that State Farm violated Arkansas Insurance Rule 43, which governs loss settlements, and thus committed fraud in the inducement, breached their contracts, acted in bad faith, and engaged in an unconscionable, false, or deceptive act or practice in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA). Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from State Farm's use of a computer-generated vehicle valuation report to determine cash settlement amounts for the vehicle owners' automobiles' total losses. After removal to federal court, the district court dismissed the claims based on its finding that Rule 43 did not provide a private right of action.The Eighth Circuit affirmed on different grounds, concluding that State Farm's settlement practice complied with Section 10(a)(3) of Rule 43. Therefore, the vehicle owners have failed to state a claim. The court explained that Section 10(a)(3) does not require insurers to justify their deviation from the methods prescribed in Section 10(a)(2). Rather, the Rule requires only that insurers thoroughly document any value deductions when they deviate from Sections 10(a)(1) and (2). In this case, State Farm's valuation reports, which are attached to the vehicle owners' complaint, clearly set forth the itemized deductions and additions in compliance with Section 10(a)(3). Furthermore, the report fully explained the basis for the final settlement amounts. View "Moffitt v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a utility-locating service, USIC, in an action brought by Spire, a gas company, and its insurers, seeking full indemnification from USIC, as well as a declaratory judgment that USIC would be liable for all future settlements as well, without regard to fault. The court held that, under Missouri's anti-indemnification law, Mo. Rev. Stat. Sec. 433.100.1, Spire could not use the parties' contract to seek indemnification for its own negligence or wrongdoing. The court explained that, even if Spire is right that "construction work" does not ordinarily include marking and flagging the location of gas lines, it makes no difference here because Missouri has adopted a broader definition of "construction work." View "Spire Missouri, Inc. v. USIC Locating Services, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The bankruptcy trustee sued Cornerstone on the insured's behalf, alleging that Cornerstone breached its duty to defend the insured by failing to timely file an answer to a complaint filed against him. The insurance policy was in effect when the insured's car collided with another vehicle.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Cornerstone on the trustee's claim because Cornerstone had no duty to defend when the insured did not strictly comply with a condition precedent to coverage. In this case, the insured was required to strictly comply with the policy provision mandating that he promptly forward the legal papers he received to Cornerstone, but he failed to do so. Furthermore, the actions of the claims representative did not waive the policy's requirement that the insured promptly forward any legal papers to Cornerstone, nor did they estop Cornerstone from denying coverage based on noncompliance. View "Dowden v. Cornerstone National Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Westfield Insurance in an action seeking a declaratory judgment that it owed no obligations to Advanced Auto, Advanced Auto's employee, or their insurer, Carolina Casualty. The court agreed with the district court that neither the employee nor Advanced Auto was an "insured" under the policy that Westfield Insurance issued to Westfield Insurance's insured, Worldwide. In this case, when Worldwide turned over the truck to McNeilus, Worldwide had no control over who was driving the truck until McNeilus finished its work and returned the truck to Worldwide. View "Westfield Insurance Co. v. Carolina Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that Selective denied insurance coverage in bad faith and the district court's award of taxable costs and prejudgment interest. In this case, Selective sought a declaration of no coverage for the insured's hailstorm-damaged property, alleging fraud by misrepresentation and breach of contract. The insured counterclaimed and later added a claim for bad faith denial of benefits under Minn. Stat. 604.18, which would entitle him to taxable costs. A jury found in favor of the insured and a panel of appraisers assessed damages. The court concluded that the district court did not err in allowing the insured's section 604.18 claim to proceed; there was no error in awarding taxable costs under section 604.18, subdivision 2(a), based on the district court's determination that no reasonable insurer would have relied on any of Selective's proposed bases to deny defendant's hail claim for fraud; and there was no error in the district court's award of prejudgment interest. View "Selective Insurance Company of South Carolina v. Sela" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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Rodenburg purchased a Commercial Umbrella Liability Policy from Cincinnati. In the underlying action, a plaintiff filed suit against Rodenburg, asserting several theories including wrongful garnishment, tort-based claims, and violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Rodenburg filed a claim under the policy for coverage of the underlying lawsuit, but Cincinnati denied coverage.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Cincinnati, concluding that the policy did not provide coverage for the underlying lawsuit and Cincinnati had no duty to defend Rodenburg under the policy. In this case, the underlying complaint alleged "personal and advertising injury" that was not "caused by an 'occurrence.'" The court explained that any potential liability arose either directly or indirectly from conduct that was alleged to violate the FDCPA, however, and was thus excluded from coverage by the Violation of Statutes Exclusion. Therefore, Cincinnati did not breach its contractual duty to defend Rodenburg. View "Rodenburg LLP v. Cincinnati Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit held that an accidental death and dismemberment insurance policy does not qualify as a health plan under Maine law, Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 24-A, 4303. Therefore, Unum Life's decision to deny benefits is subject to a deferential abuse of discretion standard of review. In this case, substantial evidence supported Unum Life's conclusion that intoxication contributed to the insured's fall down the stairs, which resulted in her death. The court concluded the Unum Life did not abuse its discretion in denying benefits under the policy's intoxication exclusion. View "Williams v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against State Farm and GEICO for liability coverage after she was injured on her husband's boat. In this case, plaintiff was seriously hurt when she was thrown from the boat.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment concluding that the State Farm and GEICO household exclusions bar recovery here. Furthermore, the exclusions do not violate Minnesota law and public policy. The court rejected plaintiff's suggestion that the question of umbrella and boatowner's liability insurance coverage arising from spousal negligence creates a novel question of law that the court should certify to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The court explained that the caselaw plaintiff relies on does not hold that insurance policies must cover household members. Rather, Minnesota consistently enforces household exclusions when the controlling statutes do not prohibit such exclusions, nor do they require homeowner's policies to provide liability coverage for claims made by one resident of a household against another. View "Godfrey v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Continental in an action brought by Millard Gutter, alleging that Continental breached insurance policies issued to third parties. The court concluded that Millard Gutter lacked authority to determine the scope of the loss or damage sustained by Midwest Screw or Dr. Schroeder. In this case, the authorization terms are clear and no reasonable person would construe them to assign Midwest Screw's and Dr. Schroeder's claims to Millard Gutter or to otherwise grant Millard Gutter the right to determine the scope of damages or loss. Rather, the plain language of the authorizations permits Millard Gutter only to seek payment from defendants and to negotiate the terms of those payments with defendants. View "Millard Gutter Co. v. Continental Casualty Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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CNI owed IPFS the unearned premium from an insurance policy that was cancelled prematurely, but the parties disputed the value of the unearned premium. The district court granted partial summary judgment to IPFS but denied IPFS's request for prejudgment interest. IPFS filed a motion to amend under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), requesting prejudgment interest, which the district court granted. CNI appeals.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting IPFS's Rule 59(e) motion. The court explained that the fact that IPFS did not request prejudgment interest in its initial summary judgment briefing does not mean that the district court was prohibited from considering the request in a post-judgment Rule 59(e) motion. The court also concluded that the district court did not miscalculate the amount of prejudgment interest owed by CNI under Nebraska law. In this case, because the district court could readily determine the amount based on the premium finance agreement and no reasonable controversy existed as to the amount, the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the entire claim was liquidated and subject to prejudgment interest. View "Continental Indemnity Co. v. IPFS of New York, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law