The Pollution Exclusion Can Bar Coverage for Alleged Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Claims

In Foremost Ins. Co. v. Rodriguez, a Pennsylvania federal district denied a motion to dismiss a declaratory judgment lawsuit filed by a liability insurer that sought to disclaim coverage for an underlying lawsuit alleging carbon monoxide exposure.[1] 

In the underlying state court lawsuit, tenants sued their landlords, alleging that the landlords refused to repair a heating system, which resulted, ultimately, in carbon monoxide poisoning. After the tenants’ hospitalization, the local gas company deemed the heater on the property unsafe, and instructed the …

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Not So Fast – Pennsylvania’s Bad Faith Statute Is Not A Blank Check for Fees

The Third Circuit recently held that a jury bad faith damage award does not automatically entitle a successful claimant to an award of attorney’s fees under Pennsylvania’s bad faith statute. In affirming the district court’s denial of an award of attorney’s fees, the Third Circuit formally endorsed the view that where a fee-shifting statute provides a court with discretion to award attorney’s fees, such discretion includes the ability to deny a fee request that is outrageously excessive. In doing so, the Third Circuit joins the …

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A Window Opens? Are Defective Product Construction Defect Claims Covered Under Pennsylvania Law?

A recent decision from a Pennsylvania court highlights tension in Pennsylvania law regarding whether a construction defect claim involving consequential damages caused by a defective product involves a covered “occurrence.” Sapa Extrusions, Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 2018 WL 2045496 (M.D. Pa. May 1, 2018).

In this coverage action, the insured, a window frame manufacturer, sought a declaratory judgment that it was owed coverage for an underlying action brought by a customer that used the window frames to manufacture windows. The customer alleged …

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Pennsylvania Court Rejects Manifestation Trigger for Latent Property Damage Claims

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently determined that the multiple trigger rule, and not the manifestation rule, is the proper standard to use when determining whether an insurance policy is triggered in an environmental property damage claim involving a long latency period between exposure and manifestation. See Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Company v. Johnson Matthey, Inc., et al., 2017 WL 1418401 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Apr. 21, 2017), This decision, which is at odds with statements by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is a 2014 …

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Anticipated Decision in Heinz Rescission Litigation Upholds Ruling Voiding $25 Million Insurance Policy Due to Misrepresentations in the Application

In a much anticipated decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the rescission of H.J. Heinz Company’s $25 million production contamination insurance policy because Heinz made material misrepresentations concerning previous product contamination claims when it applied for the policy. H.J. Heinz Company v. Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Company, No. 16-1447 (3d Cir. Jan. 11, 2017).

The fact that Heinz’s application misrepresented its history of prior contaminations losses was clear. The insurer’s application asked Heinz to disclose past complaints, recommendations, fines or penalties by …

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Don’t Skip Steps When Analyzing the Foundation for a Covered Claim: No Publication and No Use of Advertising Ideas Means No Duty to Defend Beauty School Dispute

Desabato v. Assurance Co. of America et al., No. 2:15-cv-484, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135389 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 30, 2016) represents a continuation of Pennsylvania law in the context of an insurer’s duty to defend personal and advertising injury claims. As articulated in Desabato, Pennsylvania adheres to a strict four-corners analysis of an insurer’s duty to defend. Since the underlying complaint failed to allege the elements of defamation or misappropriation of advertising ideas, the court held Assurance Company of America, Northern Insurance Company …

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Pennsylvania Federal Court Sets Standards for Burden of Proof in Rescission Matter

The ongoing coverage litigation between H.J. Heinz Company and Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Company in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania has yielded another important decision that is instructive in rescission matters.  As a follow up to our previous report on October 22, 2015 on the court’s order that Starr must produce information from its underwriting files involving other policyholders, the court has now set guidelines for the burden of proof and jury instructions in the $25 million coverage dispute set …

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Pennsylvania Federal Judge Orders an Insurer to Produce Information from Underwriting Files Involving Other Policyholders in a Rescission Dispute

Discovery disputes in insurance coverage litigation frequently concern whether an insurer must produce information about policies issued to other policyholders or other claims against the insurer involving similar policies or circumstances. Policyholders often seek such discovery to compare the insurer’s position in the disputed claim with positions it may have taken in other claims or under other policies. Insurers typically resist such discovery as being irrelevant to issues involving the particular policy or claim at issue in the litigation. A recent decision by the U.S. …

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Holds that an Insurer’s Consent to Settle is Not Required if Insurer Is Defending Under Reservation of Rights

The Pennsylvania appellate courts have kept insurance coverage lawyers on their toes this summer. Weeks after the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s decision in Selective Way Insurance Co. v. Hospitality Group Services, Inc. provided guidance on when the statute of limitations for an insurance coverage declaratory judgment action accrues, on July 21, 2015, the state’s Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision in Babcock & Wilcox Company v. American Nuclear Insurers.

In Babcock & Wilcox, the Supreme Court held that when an insurer is defending …

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In Pennsylvania, a Cause of Action for Declaratory Judgment Accrues When an Insurer has Sufficient Facts to Believe that its Policy Does Not Provide Coverage

When an insurer is asked to cover a liability claim for which coverage is in doubt, the prudent course of action is to provide a defense subject to a reservation of rights. The reservation of rights preserves the insurer’s ability to deny coverage, for either defense and indemnity, if it is determined that the claim is not covered under the policy. In many instances, a reservation of rights is accompanied with the filing of a declaratory judgment action in which the insurer asks the court …

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