Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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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 In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Special Appeals agreed, and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court.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

Posted in: Insurance Law
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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

Posted in: Insurance Law
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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

Posted in: Insurance Law
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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

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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

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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

Posted in: Insurance Law
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An Employer appealed from a decision of the Workers’ Compensation Commission (Commission) ordering Employer to pay additional temporary total disability benefits to Employee, who was injured during his employment. After a jury trial, the trial court granted Employee’s motion for judgment and affirmed the award, concluding that the Commission decision was a piece of evidence that needed to be considered by the jury and that Employer was required to introduce the Commission decision into evidence. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that Appellant was not required to move the award into evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, in a de novo workers’ compensation jury trial, the appellant is not required to move the Commission decision into evidence. View "Gales v. Sunoco & Amer. Zurich Ins." on Justia Law

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The question before the Court of Appeals in these three consolidated cases was the appropriate method for crediting payments made under a workers’ compensation award when that award is increased on appeal. At issue was whether the credits should be computed on the basis of the number of weeks paid or the amount of money expended. The Court of Appeals resolved the issue in favor of the workers in each case by relying on legislation passed specifically to supersede earlier decisions of the Court, holding that, when crediting an employer/insurer for payments made under a workers’ compensation award that is subsequently amended, credit should be given for the total amount of dollars paid under the initial award. View "W.R. Grace & Co. v. Swedo" on Justia Law

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After Elms Construction Company, owned by Richard Elms (Elms), began installing windows and doors for Renewal by Anderson (Renewal), Elms fell from a ladder and injured his right foot. Elms filed a workers’ compensation claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, alleging that he was Renewal’s common law employee at the time of the injury. The Commission concluded that Elms was an independent contractor, rather than a common law employee of Renewal, and was therefore not entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits. The circuit court reversed, concluding that Elms was Renewal’s common law employee. The court of special appeals vacated the circuit court’s opinion and remanded. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and remanded with directions to affirm the circuit court’s judgment, holding (1) the Commission misconstrued the law as applied to the facts when it concluded that Elms was an independent contractor and not an employee of Renewal; (2) the court of special appeals erred when it held that a statutory employment analysis under section 9-508 of the Workers’ Compensation Act must precede a common law employment analysis; and (3) by application of the common law to the facts of this case, Elms was Renewal’s employee at the time of the accident. View "Elms v. Renewal by Anderson" on Justia Law

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David Springer was sued by J.G. Wentworth Originations, LLC for, inter alia, engaging in false and misleading advertising, defamation, and false light. Springer was insured under an insurance policy issued by Erie Insurance Exchange. The policy contained a provision that excluded personal liability coverage arising out of “business pursuits.” Erie refused to provide Springer with a legal defense in the J.G. Wentworth lawsuit, arguing that the suit was triggered by Springer’s business interests and was thus barred under the “business pursuits” exclusion. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Erie. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the circuit court, holding that Erie and the trial court should have considered more than the face of the J.G. Wentworth complaint before establishing Springer’s alleged business interests and denying Springer’s claim. View "Springer v. Erie Ins. Exch." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law