Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Insurance Law
Brownlee v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co.
The application of Georgia law concerning a pollution exclusion contained in an insurance policy as excluding coverage for bodily injuries resulting from the ingestion of lead-based paint under the principle of lex loci contractus does not violate Maryland public policy. Appellants were exposed to lead-based paint at a property owned by the Salvation Army. Appellants sued Defendants, alleging lead-based paint related tort claims. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company issued comprehensive general liability insurance policies to the Salvation Army. The policies, which were purchased in Georgia, did not include lead-based paint exclusion provisions but did include pollution exclusion provisions. Appellants sought affirmation that Liberty Mutual was obligated to indemnify the Salvation Army and defend against Appellants’ claims. Liberty Mutual moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Maryland courts follow the doctrine of lex loci contracts in choosing the applicable law and that, under Georgia law, the insurance policy did not cover claims for lead-based paint poisoning. The Supreme Court held that application of Georgia law concerning the policy’s pollution exclusion under the principle of lex loci contracts does not violate Maryland public policy. View "Brownlee v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Reger v. Washington County Board of Education
The Court of Appeals affirmed the finding of the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) that Employer and Insurer (collectively, Respondents) were entitled to offset the ordinary disability benefits already paid to Petitioner against the temporary total disability benefits paid to him by Respondents. Petitioner suffered injuries primarily to his back and neck while working for Employer. Employer received two different sets of disability benefits from Employer and Insurer, each awarded by a different state agency. Specifically, Petitioner was granted temporary total disability benefits by the WCC and ordinary disability benefits by the State Retirement Agency. The WCC found that Respondents were entitled to a credit for the ordinary disability benefits already paid to Petitioner. On judicial review, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the WCC. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that because both sets of benefits compensated Petitioner for the same injury, pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. 9-610, the statutory offset properly applied to prevent a double recovery for the same injury. View "Reger v. Washington County Board of Education" on Justia Law
National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. Fund for Animals, Inc.
This case related to three actions: (1) an Endangered Species Act case (ESA case), where the Fund for Animals, Inc. (FFA) and other plaintiffs sued Ringling Brothers and its owner, Feld Entertainment, (collectively, Feld) for the mistreatment of Asian elephants in the Ringling Brothers’ Circus; (2) the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act case (RICO case), where Feld sued FFA and the other plaintiffs in the ESA case for improper conduct; and (3) the coverage case, where FFA sued its insurer (National Union) for not providing coverage to FFA when it was sued by Feld in the RICO case. The findings in the ESA case were adverse to FFA and could have been used against it in the RICO case, thus prejudicing National Union. In this appeal stemming from the coverage dispute, FFA argued that although notice of the RICO claim was late under the policy, the late notification was not prejudicial to National Union. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of National Union. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that National Union was not prejudiced in investigating, settling, or defending the RICO claim as a result of any delay in receiving notice of claims brought by FFA. View "National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. Fund for Animals, Inc." on Justia Law
Maryland Insurance Administration v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
At issue in this case was whether an insured may receive personal injury protection (PIP) coverage under a personal motor vehicle liability insurance policy for injuries sustained while driving a taxicab owned by the insured but not covered by the personal motor vehicle liability insurance policy where the policy contains an exclusion for motor vehicles owned but not insured under the policy. The Maryland Insurance Commissioner concluded that the insurer’s denial of coverage was unlawful in this case. The circuit court reversed. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that an insurer of a personal motor vehicle liability insurance policy, which includes PIP coverage, is not responsible, as a result of the application of the personal motor vehicle liability insurance policy’s owned but not insured exclusion, for PIP coverage for injuries the insured sustained while driving a taxicab owned by the insured but not covered by the personal motor vehicle liability insurance policy. View "Maryland Insurance Administration v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law
United Insurance v. MD Insurance Admin.
Petitioners, United Insurance Company of America and the Reliable Life Insurance Company, filed a declaratory action against Respondents, the Maryland Insurance Administration, et al., (“MIA”) challenging the retroactive enforcement of Md. Code (2011 Repl. Vol., 2015 Supp.) sections 16-118 of the Insurance Article (“Ins.”). Section 16-118 imposed a duty on an insurer who “issues, delivers, or renews a policy of life insurance or an annuity contract . . .” in the State to “perform a comparison of [their] in-force life insurance policies, annuity contracts, and retained assets accounts against the latest version of a death master file to identify any death benefit payments that may be due. . . .” on a regular or semi-annual basis. Prior to this legislation, insurers were under no obligation to research whether a policyholder had died, and the statute did not indicate whether its provisions applied retroactively to existing insurance policies. The circuit court dismissed Petitioners’ action based on the failure to exhaust administrative remedies afforded by the Insurance Article. In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Special Appeals agreed, and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. After its review, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed. View "United Insurance v. MD Insurance Admin." on Justia Law
Woznicki v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co.
At issue in these two consolidated civil cases was the circumstances under which an insurer providing uninsured (UM) motorist coverage may disclaim any such liability owed to its insured. In these cases, Petitioners sued their UM carriers for breach of contract. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgments in favor of the UM carriers in both cases, concluding that Petitioners’ failure to comply with the statutory UM coverage settlement procedures were fatal to their claims. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Court of Special Appeals did not err in concluding that (1) the UM carrier did not waive its right to receive written notice of a pending settlement with the tortfeasor’s insurance carrier even where there was unequivocal testimony from Petitioner’s counsel that he received oral consent to settle from a UM carrier claims representative; and (2) the UM carrier did not bear the burden of proving prejudice arising from Petitioners’ failure to give written notice of the pending settlement with the tortfeasors’ insurance carrier. View "Woznicki v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Thompson v. UBS Fin. Servs.
Here the Court of Appeals decided whether to overrule Allied Inv. Corp. v. Jasen, in which the Court held that a defendant does not convert a plaintiff’s intangible property where the defendant does not convert a document that embodies the plaintiff’s right to the plaintiff’s intangible property. In this case involving a life insurance policy a jury found Defendant, an insurance broker, liable for negligence, negligent misrepresentation, deceit, conversion, and constructive fraud. The Court of Special Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish claims for conversion and constructive fraud. Plaintiffs appealed, urging the Court of Appeals to overrule Jasen and arguing that a defendant converts a plaintiff’s intangible property by interfering with the plaintiff’s right to the the intangible property, even if the defendant does not convert a document that embodies the plaintiff’s right to the plaintiff’s intangible property. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the circuit court erred in denying Defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict as to conversion, as Defendant did not convert the life insurance policy, and as to constructive fraud, as Plaintiffs failed to establish that the parties were in a confidential relationship. View "Thompson v. UBS Fin. Servs." on Justia Law
Md. Cas. Co. v. Blackwell Int’l Ltd.
Blackstone International, Ltd. was insured by Insurers for commercial general liability insurance. The policy included coverage for personal advertising injury liability. Blackstone was sued for breach of contract, among other causes of action, after disputes arose regarding a joint business venture to market and sell lighting products. Blackstone requested coverage and litigation defense under the personal and advertising injury provisions of the policy. Insurers filed a complaint for declaratory judgment seeking a judgment that they had no duty to defend the claims because the complaint did not allege that Blackstone had engaged in advertising, that the plaintiff had suffered an advertising injury, or that there was any causal connection between the plaintiff’s claimed damages and any advertising conducted by Blackstone. The circuit court entered summary judgment for Insurers. The intermediate appellate court reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Insurer had no duty to defend Blackstone where Blackstone did not show an advertising injury suffered by the plaintiff. View "Md. Cas. Co. v. Blackwell Int'l Ltd." on Justia Law
Connors v. Gov’t Employees Ins. Co.
Plaintiffs, husband and wife, were struck by a motor vehicle being driven by Adam Pond while they were on a walk. At the time of the accident, the Connors owned a vehicle insured by Government Employees Insurance Co. (GEICO). The terms of the policy included underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage of $300,000 per person/$300,000 per accident. Pond maintained automobile liability insurance with Allstate Insurance Co. limited to $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident. Plaintiffs settled with Allstate. Pursuant to the settlement, Allstate paid $100,000 to each plaintiff. Plaintiffs then submitted claims for underinsured motorist coverage to GEICO under the terms of the policy, seeking $300,000 total from GEICO. GEICO paid Plaintiffs $100,000. Plaintiffs then filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against GEICO as to the $200,000 in dispute. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of GEICO. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that under the unambiguous terms of the policy, the total damages due to Plaintiffs as a couple were capped at $300,000, and because Allstate already paid each Plaintiff $100,000, which amounts were deducted from the amount that GEICO would be required otherwise to pay Plaintiffs, GEICO was responsible for the remaining $100,000. View "Connors v. Gov't Employees Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Payne v. Erie Ins. Exch.
Karen Dwyer was the primary driver of a vehicle owned by her father, Alan Dwyer. Alan had forbidden Ameen Abdulkhalek, the father of Karen’s children, to drive the car. The vehicle was insured by a policy in Alan’s name with Erie Insurance Exchange. When Karen gave the car keys to Abdulkhalek and asked him to retrieve the children, Abdulkhalek was involved in an accident after first making a trip to a gas station. The circuit court determined that Abdulkhalek’s use of the vehicle was not covered under an omnibus clause in the policy. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) an omnibus clause in an automobile policy that extends liability coverage to a permissive owner of an insured vehicle also encompasses a driver who operates the car for the benefit of an individual who has permission from the named insured to use the vehicle; (2) coverage does not extend to that driver, however, if he deviates from the purpose for which he was authorized to drive the car for the benefit of the first permittee; and (3) because Abdulkhalek operated the car for a purpose other than that requested by the Karen, the omnibus clause did not extend coverage to Abdulkhalek. View "Payne v. Erie Ins. Exch." on Justia Law