In a recent article published in Law360, Hunton & Williams LLP attorneys Walter Andrews, Malcolm Weiss and Paul Moura discuss two recent decisions in Tree Top Inc. v. Starr Indem. & Liab. Co., No. 1:15-CV-03155-SMJ, 2017 WL 5664718 (E.D. Wash. Nov. 21, 2017). There, the Eastern District of Washington rejected an insurer’s attempt to escape insurance coverage for a Proposition 65 lawsuit filed against juice-maker, Tree Top Inc.  Continue Reading Hunton Attorneys Discuss Insurance Coverage for Prop. 65 Claims and Key Takeaways from Recent Court Rulings

Earlier this month, Canada’s transport minister announced that a drone had collided with a commercial aircraft, the first confirmed collision of its kind in North America. Thankfully, the aircraft sustained only minor damage and was able to land safely. But this recent incident, which many commentators believed was inevitable given the proliferation of consumer and commercial drones, highlights the potential risks associated with drone operations. Continue Reading Are Your Drone Operations Covered by Insurance?

An insured seeking coverage for credit card fees assessed against its third-party payment processor following a data breach recently filed an appeal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Spec’s, a liquor store chain with over 160 locations throughout Texas, suffered two major data breaches of its credit card payment system, resulting in the loss of customer information and credit card numbers. Spec’s accepts Visa and MasterCard payments from its customers through a third-party processor, First Data. As a result of the breach, First Data incurred liability assessments from MasterCard and Visa totaling $9.6 million. A merchant agreement required Spec’s to indemnify First Data for any assessments First Data incurred as a result of a breach of Spec’s system. First Data demanded indemnification from Spec’s for the fees. Without any adjudication of First Data’s claims and without Spec’s consent, First Data allegedly wrongfully withheld $4.2 million in credit card payments owed to Spec’s. Consequently, Spec’s sued First Data in Tennessee federal court to recover the $4.2 million.

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Liability insurance policies generally have an exclusion barring coverage for claims brought by the insured’s own employees. These exclusions usually do not bar coverage, however, when claims are brought by an employee of one insured against another insured. This scenario occurs frequently, especially for companies in the retail industry, who are usually one of multiple insureds under a single policy and are susceptible to being sued by another insured’s employees. Continue Reading Insurance Coverage for Employee Claims

The Ninth Circuit will decide whether Great Lakes Reinsurance must defend clothing company, In and Out, against a trademark infringement suit by Forever 21. The dispute focuses on exclusionary language in the general liability policy issued by Great Lakes to In and Out, which broadly bars coverage for claims stemming from violations of intellectual property rights, but which also excepts from the exclusion claims for copyright, trade dress and slogan infringement occurring in the company’s advertisements. The appeal concerns last year’s ruling by a California federal judge that Great Lakes owed a defense because the underlying complaint raised a potential that In and Out’s advertising infringed Forever 21’s trade dress. Continue Reading Ninth Circuit to Decide Whether IP Exclusion Applies to Forever 21 Trademark Suit

In late May 2017, the American Law Institute met to approve the Proposed Final Draft of the first ever Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance—the culmination of over seven years of work on this project. Not surprisingly, many of the issues discussed in the Restatement have been hotly contested by insurers. The proposed Restatement is important for retail industry insureds because courts around the country may look to this new Restatement in ruling on common insurance coverage disputes arising out of product liability actions, recalls and environmental contamination. For example, some of the most hotly debated sections of the proposed Restatement include, (1) policy interpretation principles, such as when a term is deemed ambiguous; (2) the standard for determining the insurer’s duty to defend; (3) the insurer’s duty to make reasonable settlement decisions; and (4) the allocation of liability in long-tail environmental claims. Continue Reading The Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance and Impact on Retail Insureds

Many retailers today face an increasing risk related to product recalls, which can result in extensive losses and a variety of liability claims. For example, a major supplier of meats was recently forced to recall more than seven million pounds of its product after customers found bone fragments and pieces of cartilage in their hot dogs and sausages. The large scope of this recall, and the associated challenges, is by no means unique to this company. Specialized insurance policies should provide protection to minimize most recall losses and exposure from liability claims. However, insurers often seek to rescind recall policies by asking courts to void the policies from their inception, meaning that the polices would not provide any coverage for any pending or future claims. A large number of these recall claims are being brought under New York law. Continue Reading Steps to Avoid Rescission of Recall Insurance Policies

Commercial general liability policies typically provide coverage to insureds for losses resulting from property damage caused by an “occurrence,” usually defined in the policy as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same harmful conditions.” Specific product recall insurance policies and contamination policies also typically require that the insured’s loss be caused by accidental or unintentional contamination or impairment. In the context of product recalls, however, the exact cause of damage or contamination may be unknown. This creates uncertainty, and in turn, a coverage dispute over whether the cause of damage was indeed accidental, and thus a covered “occurrence” or “event” under the policy. Continue Reading Fear of the Unknown: Insurance Coverage for Recalls Where the Cause of Loss is Unknown

Measuring your costs against the competition is an important tool for staying competitive and minding the bottom line. Benchmarking studies performed by outside consultants are an increasingly common way for businesses to gain insight into how their contracts stack up against others’ in the industry. In an age where retailers rely on outside vendors to provide many integral functions, making sure you are getting the best deal matters. Continue Reading Sharing Business Contracts with a Benchmarking Consultant? You Might Be Breaching Vendor Agreements

Private equity investors face unique challenges when procuring or renewing their liability insurance programs. For example, investors typically must complete lengthy applications or sign warranty and representation letters from their prospective insurers that inquire into knowledge by any potential insured as to any acts or omissions that could potentially give rise to a claim. These overly broad, and often vague, inquiries are problematic for private equity investors who would theoretically have to interview every employee, manager or director at every subsidiary, fund and portfolio company (if insureds) to discern whether any person has knowledge of such an act or omission. Hunton insurance coverage attorneys Syed S. Ahmad and Andrea DeField recently authored an article in Bloomberg Law Securities Regulation & Law Report in which they address this issue and others as part of their Top 5 Coverage Issues Private Equity Investors Should Consider.