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Insurance Representative Cases

  • Won a coverage dispute on behalf of our insurance carrier client. In this case, Johnson & Bell’s client had issued an insurance policy to a subcontractor at a construction jobsite. An employee of the subcontractor claimed he had been injured at the construction site and sued the general contractor. The general contractor (GC) tendered the matter to the subcontractor and its insurer, Johnson & Bell’s client. The subcontractor and GC had a written contract stating the subcontractor must obtain a certificate of insurance listing the GC as an additional insured on its workman compensation and general liability insurance policies.  The contract also stated that no payment would be issued to the subcontractor until the insurance was received. The subcontractor, through its insurance broker, obtained a certificate of insurance and sent it to the general contractor. However, Johnson & Bell’s client’s insurance policy language specified that in order for an entity to qualify as an additional insured a written contract must exist “that such person or organization be added as an additional insured on your policy.” We argued that the agreement to name a general contractor as an additional insured on a certificate of insurance was not sufficient, particularly where the certificate specifically stated that it was “issued as a matter of information only”, that it “confers no rights upon the certificate holder” and that it does “not amend, extend or alter the coverage afforded by the policies”. They also argued that the contract did not incorporate the certificate of insurance as part of the contract. The court agreed that the policy language and the language of the contract between the general contractor and subcontractor were unambiguous, and held that the general contractor did not qualify as an additional insured because the language in the contract did not satisfy the policy requirement that an agreement in writing that the party seeking coverage be named as an additional insured on a “policy” of insurance. Accordingly, Johnson & Bell’s client had no duty to defend or indemnify the general contractor in the underlying case.
  • Recently obtained judgment on the pleadings on behalf of our contractor client in an insurance coverage dispute in the Chancery Division in Cook County. The dispute involved whether the contractor was entitled to a defense under its subcontractor’s general liability insurance policy, which provided coverage only where the putative “additional insured” could potentially be held vicariously liable in the underlying case for acts or omissions of the named insured. The parties filed cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings/summary judgment.
  • The Illinois First District Appellate Court affirmed a circuit court’s judgment in favor of Johnson & Bell’s insurance client. In this case, plaintiff, a facility for developmentally disabled adults, sought coverage for an underlying personal injury lawsuit, arguing that the insurer should be estopped from raising coverage defenses because the insurer failed to defend under a reservation of rights or file a declaratory judgment action. The policy issued by the insurer was a claims-made and reported policy that provided coverage for bodily injury claims occurring and reported to the insurer during the policy period. Plaintiff had reported the claim after cancellation of the policy, but argued that it still fell within coverage. The appellate court agreed with Johnson & Bell’s position, finding that plaintiff improperly attempted to conflate a “late notice defense” associated with occurrence policies with the coverage triggering requirements for a claims-made policy. The court also agreed with Johnson & Bell’s argument that the policy was not ambiguous and plaintiff failed to trigger coverage for the underlying lawsuit under the insuring agreement of the policy. This saved the client both defense costs and potential indemnity for the underlying lawsuit.
  • Affirmed summary judgment in favor of an insurer (Johnson & Bell’s client) in a dispute about the amount of coverage available as part of an Underinsured Motorist claim. The insured claimed that our client had waived its right to assert setoffs and sought payment of the insurer’s full $1 million limits. Johnson & Bell argued that setoffs in the amount of over $315,000 were applicable for amounts already paid to the insured in his third-party case against the at-fault driver and for amounts already paid by the insurer as a workers’ compensation settlement. The decision ultimately saved the insurer over $315,000, the amount of the applicable setoffs.
  • The Seventh Circuit affirmed a lower court’s opinion in favor of Johnson & Bell’s insurance client, holding that our client does not have a duty to defend an employment agency in a case pending in New York. The underlying case involves a laborer, an employee of the employment agency, who was injured while performing clean up to a jobsite following Hurricane Sandy. The employment agency was brought into the lawsuit as a third-party defendant and allegedly violated certain NY labor laws. The employment agency tendered its defense to its general liability insurer, our client.
  • Received summary judgment in favor of our client in a complex insurance coverage case in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The firm represented an insurer which issued Commercial General Liability (CGL) and Employers’ Liability (EL) policies to its insured. The named insured was an Illinois company that provided laborers to companies in a number of states. While working on a project in New York, an employee of the named insured was injured and filed suit against numerous parties that were working on the site. One of these parties filed a Third Party Complaint against the named insured, which then sought coverage for the lawsuit under its CGL and EL policies. Johnson & Bell attorneys filed a declaratory judgment action in the Northern District of Illinois, seeking a declaration that their client had no duty to defend or indemnify their named insured for the claims asserted in the Third Party Complaint.Under the CGL Policy, the attorneys argued that the Employer’s Liability exclusion precluded coverage for the Third Party Complaint, because the injured person was an employee of the named insured and the “insured contract” exception to the exclusion did not apply, because the agreement between the named insured and the contractor did not include an agreement that the named insured would indemnify the contractor for the contractor’s own negligence. The Court agreed with our attorneys, holding that the contract at issue did not contain any language indicating that the named insured would provide indemnity for others’ own negligence, and therefore that it was not an “insured contract”.Under the EL Policy, coverage for the named insured was limited to work performed in certain states, which did not include New York. However, the policy also included a coverage part titled “Other States Insurance” which provided that if the named insured begins work in any state after the effective date of the policy and is “not insured or self-insured for such work, all provisions of the policy will apply . . .” Our attorneys argued that a separate EL policy issued by the New York State Insurance Fund to the named insured clearly showed that the named insured was separately insured for its work at the site where the injuries to its employee occurred. The Court agreed, holding that the named insured had other insurance that applied, and therefore that no coverage was available under the policy issued by our firm's insurance carrier client. Since there was no coverage available under either the CGL Policy or EL Policy, the court granted our firm's Motion for Summary Judgment, and entered a judgment in favor of our client that it had no duty to defend or indemnify the named insured.
  • Achieved summary judgment in favor of our client in a complex Underinsured Motorist (UIM) insurance coverage case in Cook County Chancery court.In this case, the plaintiff previously won an arbitration award for his UIM claim in the amount of $3 million against our client, an insurance company. Following the award, our client paid its $1 million policy limit less certain set offs for the amount the plaintiff received from the other driver involved in the accident and for the amount of workers’ compensation benefits that our client paid as the workers’ compensation carrier for the employer. Plaintiff claimed that the set offs were improper due to a “settlement agreement” that our client entered into allowing the plaintiff to accept money from the other driver.  Furthermore, the plaintiff argued that our client waived its right to assert set offs for the workers’ compensation payments due to the language of the settlement contract and correspondence in the workers’ compensation case.At this point, we filed a declaratory judgment complaint against the plaintiff contending that the set offs were proper. In a lengthy written opinion order, the judge agreed that our client was entitled to setoffs for workers’ compensation amounts paid and for the settlement of the third-party action, and found that there was no “settlement agreement.” Further, the judge held that our client did not waive its right to assert any setoffs in its correspondence, as plaintiff claimed. Finally, the judge found that the setoffs were not against public policy. The ruling saved our client in excess of $300,000.
  • Secured a win in the Illinois Appellate Court First Judicial District for an insurance company and its insured parties in a difficult and complicated UIM insurance coverage case. Our clients were at risk for a $2 million award, but as a result of this Rule 23 Order, which affirmed a previously obtained summary judgment order entered by a judge in the Circuit Court, our clients will pay nothing.In this dispute, the plaintiff widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against our clients (subsequently amended as a declaratory judgment complaint) alleging that her husband, a long-haul truck driver, was killed in a collision with an uninsured motorist in Illinois. He was an independent truck driver working for a trucking company. The truck driver’s widow sought UIM benefits in the amount of $2M from our clients on the basis that there was no proper or timely rejection of the higher UIM limits as required under either Illinois or Kansas law (where the vehicle was garaged and where the truck driver lived).  We argued that the higher limits had been rejected, in writing and within the proper timeframe.The case in the trial court was extremely hard fought with multiple motions for summary judgment filed under Illinois and then Kansas law. After we won in Chancery court, it offered the plaintiff $200,000 to settle the matter.  Plaintiff refused the offer, convinced they would win on appeal.
  • The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Selective Insurance Company must defend and indemnify our client in a federal lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed she sustained a traumatic brain injury when a dressing room door in a Target store fell on her. The federal trial court found that the retailer is entitled to coverage under the door supplier’s policy. The appellate opinion upheld the trial court’s ruling that Target qualifies as an additional insured under the door supplier’s commercial general liability policy. Target was awarded $714,000 to cover Target's defense and settlement costs.
  • In a construction injury coverage dispute, we successfully argued that our client’s duty to defend or indemnify a construction contractor as an additional insured was never properly triggered under the policy.  Based on this condition, we further argued that the construction contractor was therefore not entitled to potentially $1.6 million in coverage under his client’s policy.  A Cook County court agreed with our claims and granted summary judgment in favor of our client.   This coverage dispute involved a serious injury at a construction site in 2007.  In 2012, the construction company and its primary insurer agreed to a settlement of nearly $2 million.  At the time of settlement the construction company and its primary insurer demanded that our client pay $1.6 million to them under an additional insured endorsement. After denying the demand on the basis that notice to the client was not reasonable, we filed a declaratory judgment complaint asking the court to resolve the dispute. We argued on summary judgment that the construction company breached its policy by not disclosing the nature, extent or potential liability associated with the construction site injury for nearly five years.   In addition, we argued that our client did not have actual notice that its policy covered or potentially covered the construction company with respect to the serious injury at the construction site.   After oral arguments, the court agreed with our client and granted summary judgment in his client’s favor.
  • We saved our client $200,000 when we prevailed in an UIM coverage dispute before the Fifth District Court of Appeals.  The appellate court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defense. The plaintiff was seriously injured in an accident with an underinsured motorist while in the course of his employment. The at-fault driver had only $50,000 in coverage. His employer's insurer carried both the worker's compensation and UIM coverage. The plaintiff claimed that his injuries were so serious that he was entitled to the full $1 million limits of the UIM policy, despite having already recovered approximately $200,000 for the worker's compensation policy.The court of appeals rejected this argument, holding that under the plain language of the policy, the workers’ compensation payments had to be deducted from the policy limit of the UIM coverage, rather than from the plaintiff's damages even though they exceeded $1 million.  The court agreed with the defendant's argument that when read as a whole, the meaning of the policy was clear and unambiguous. The Court also found the defendant's argument persuasive in light of Illinois public policy that UIM insurance is “gap” coverage that is designed to place the injured person in the same position as he would have occupied if the at-fault motorist had the same insurance coverage as the insured.
  • Following a 3-day bench trial, we obtained judgment in favor of our client in an insurance coverage lawsuit in which the plaintiff sought recovery of $416,000.   The coverage dispute arose out of an underlying lawsuit involving a fatal car accident that settled for $2.2 million via mediation.   The plaintiff in the coverage case insured the company that allegedly owned the vehicle that caused the car accident.  Our client had a primary policy for the owner of the company, individually, but only for non-owned auto coverage plus an umbrella policy. Our client contributed to the settlement out of its umbrella policy, but disputed the existence of coverage under the primary policy. The plaintiff in the coverage case sued our client, claiming that its primary policy applied and thus sought recovery of $416,000 expended in settlement of the wrongful death case.   We argued that our client, who admitted coverage under its umbrella policy, was not responsible under its primary policy due to certain exclusions to coverage; specifically, that its named insured was an owner of the subject vehicle due to the inclusion of his name on the certificate of title. In response, the plaintiff asserted that the intent of the purchase and actual use of the vehicle for business purposes proved sole ownership by its insured, thus triggering non-owned automobile coverage. The Court ultimately ruled in a written decision that the plaintiff did not overcome the presumption of ownership created by the certificate of title and that our client’s primary policy did not apply to the accident.

Johnson and Bell

Johnson and Bell