Oregon Supreme Court Affirms Jury’s Finding that the Insured Was Injured in Two Separate “Accidents”

On June 17, 2021, the Oregon Supreme Court addressed an appeal on the number of “accidents” in Wright v. Turner, 368 Or 207, — P3d — (2021). The insured was a passenger in a truck that was involved in a motor vehicle accident. The truck was impacted successively by two vehicles. The insured made a claim under her underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage that provided a $500,000 limit for damages “resulting from any one automobile accident[.]” Id. at 224. The Oregon Supreme Court had previously held that the number of accidents was an issue from the jury. On remand, the jury found that two accidents had occurred and that insured’s injuries could not be apportioned between them. Id. at 213. On a second appeal, the insurance company contended that trial court erred in instructing the jury when it permitted the jury to decide that the cause of the insured’s injuries could not be separated. Id. at 223-24. The court on the second appeal rejected the contention, finding the instruction proper. It explained:

Thus, under settled principles of causation, the jury was permitted, but not required, to find that both accidents caused [the insured’s] injuries. In this case, the jury found that it could not “separate the cause” of [the insured’s] injuries and that her injuries resulted from the two accidents that the jury found had occurred.

Id. at 227.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Soha & Lang, P.S. or its clients.

Oregon Court of Appeals Holds that the Insured’s Misrepresentation of a Portion of the Claim Precluded Coverage for the Entire Claim

On June 16, 2021, the Oregon Court of Appeals addressed the insured’s misrepresentation in Kelly v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 312 Or App 361, — P3d — (2021). The insured made a claim for a fire loss. The insurance company advanced $10,000 for personal property and paid $37,000 in additional living expenses (“ALE”) on the claim. The ALE payment included $1,500 per month in rent that the insured had allegedly paid after the fire. Id. at 364. The insurance company subsequently learned that the insured had made misrepresentations regarding, among other things, the rental payment. When the insured sued, the insurance company raised the policy’s Misrepresentation, Concealment and Fraud provision. The trial court granted the insurance company’s summary judgment motion, and the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed. The insured contended that the misrepresentations were not material. The Court of Appeals rejected the contention, concluding that the misrepresentations as to the ALE precluded coverage for the entire claim:

In sum, the trial court did not err in concluding that [the insured’s] misrepresentation that he was living at the [alleged rental] property at a cost of $1,500 per month was material for purposes of the Concealment, Misrepresentation or Fraud provision in his insurance policy. Forfeiture of the entire policy is undoubtedly a harsh penalty. However, it is the penalty that the legislature appears to have intended …, and it is what the policy requires under existing case law.

Id. at 376.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Soha & Lang, P.S. or its clients.

Washington Federal Court Dismisses Insureds’ Claims Seeking Coverage for COVID-19

On May 28, 2021, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington dismissed claims for alleged losses associated with COVID-19. Nguyen, et al. v. Travelers Cas. Co, et al, 2:20-CV-00597-BJR (W.D. Wash. May 28, 2021). The lawsuit is a consolidated action addressing claims under first-party “all risk” property policies. Judge Barbara Rothstein granted the defendant insurers’ motions to dismiss. In line with the majority of courts, the Court determined that there was no coverage for the claims. Among other things, the Court held:

  • COVID-19 did not cause direct physical loss of or damage to property.
  • The Civil Authority provisions did not provide coverage.
  • The virus exclusion barred coverage.

In reaching this result, the Court declined to follow two Washington state trial court decisions, finding their reasoning to be unpersuasive.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Soha & Lang, P.S. or its clients.

Arbitration Provision Enforceable in Insurance Issued by Risk Retention Group, While Arbitration and Choice-of-Law Provisions Unenforceable in Reinsurance Contract

Two recent decisions addressed the application of a Washington statute, RCW 48.18.200, which prohibits arbitration agreements and foreign choice-of-law provisions in insurance issued to Washington insureds. First, the Ninth Circuit held that the Washington statute did not prohibit an arbitration clause in an insurance policy issued to a Washington insured by a risk retention group chartered in Arizona. Allied Professionals Ins. Co. v. Anglesey, 2020 WL 1179772 (9th Cir. Mar. 12, 2020). The Ninth Circuit explained that the arbitration provision was enforceable because the Washington statute was preempted by the Liability Risk Retention Act of 1986, 15 U.S.C. § 3901 et seq. Second, a Washington federal district court held that the Washington statute voided arbitration and New York choice-of-law provisions in a reinsurance contract issued to a Washington risk pool. Washington Cities Ins. Auth. v. Ironshore Indem. Co., 2020 WL 1083715 (W.D. Wash. Mar. 6, 2020). In reaching this result, the court rejected the contention that reinsurance was not insurance subject to the statute.

Please note that any opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Soha and Lang, P.S. or its clients.

Insurer Not Entitled to Contribution Where Its Insured Did Not Assume Contingent Liabilities

Allianz Global Risks v. ACE Property & Casualty Ins. Co., 297 Or App 434 (2019) involved a contribution action brought by the plaintiff insurers against several defendant insurers. The defendant insurers had issued insurance to the same insured, Con-way, prior to 1981. These policies included Con-way’s subsidiary as an insured. In 1981, Con-way sold the subsidiary to Daimler, which was insured by plaintiffs. After defending and indemnifying Daimler, as successor to the subsidiary, in three Superfund claims and more than 1,500 asbestos personal injury claims, the plaintiffs sued the defendant insurers seeking contribution. The Oregon Court of Appeals addressed whether the plaintiffs’ insured, Daimler, had assumed the subsidiary’s contingent liabilities with the 1981 sale. It found that a letter written at the time of the sale clarified that Daimler had not assumed the contingent liabilities: “The letter states explicitly that its purpose is to clarify the terms of the [sale] agreement. It is signed by the parties and unequivocally and unambiguously states that [the subsidiary] has not transferred, and Daimler has not assumed, [the subsidiary’s] contingent liabilities.” Id. at 444. Because Daimler had not assumed the continent liabilities, the court held that the plaintiffs could not seek contribution from the defendant insurers. Soha & Lang, P.S., represented one of the insurer defendants in the action.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Soha and Lang, P.S. or its clients.