Topic: Massachusetts Developments

Massachusetts Highest Court Issues Important Decision On Insurers’ Duty to Defend and Liability for Multiple Damages

In Boyle v. Zurich American Insurance Company, 472 Mass. 649 (2015), decided on September 14, 2015, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the “SJC”) indicated, to the dismay of the insurance defense bar, that the right to a defense under a liability insurance policy is not merely contractual, but rather tantamount to constitutional, rendering that right virtually impossible to waive.

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Massachusetts Appeals Court Holds Primary Insurer’s Excess “Other Insurance” Clause Does Not Avoid Duty To Defend

In Preferred Mutual Insurance Company v. Vermont Mutual Insurance Company, 87 Mass App Ct. 510 (June 17, 2015), the Massachusetts Appeals Court discussed several interesting insurance coverage issues when it addressed a dispute between a homeowner’s insurer and a CGL insurer. The facts of the case were as follows.

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Massachusetts Court Rejects Insurer’s Attempt to Recoup Defense and Indemnity Payments

In a recent decision, a Massachusetts trial court addressed whether an insurer could recoup previously-paid indemnity and defense costs from its insured. Finding that the insured had not obtained the payments as a result of fraud or bad faith, and that the insurer had failed to cite policy language permitting reimbursement or show that the insured had entered into an express agreement regarding the insurer’s right to seek reimbursement, the court rejected the insurer’s request for reimbursement.

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Massachusetts Appeals Court Orders That 93A Claim Against Carrier Be Severed, Reverses Trial Court

In Santacroce v. Sametz, a plaintiff brought suit against both the alleged tortfeasor for negligence, and the tortfeasor’s insurer for bad faith in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws chs. 176D and 93A. The insurer, as is often the case, moved to sever and stay the Chapter 176D and 93A claims. This motion was denied by the trial judge, who noted that “privileges [work product and attorney client] can be protected by less drastic methods than severance and staying these claims.”

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Massachusetts High Court Rules That Insurer’s Full Reimbursement of Insured’s Expenses Does Not Bar Insured’s G.L. c. 93A Claim

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts recently considered whether an insured could pursue a claim against an insurer which had breached its duty to defend for unfair or deceptive acts or practices under G.L. c. 93A, § 11, notwithstanding the insurer’s full reimbursement of the insured’s expenses, plus interest. 

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District of Massachusetts Finds Coverage Under A Professional Liability Policy In Underlying Case Centered On Unfair Competition

On October 28, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied an insurer’s motion for summary judgment in a coverage action it had brought against its insured on a professional liability policy, an insurance broker who specialized in the placement of professional liability coverage for professionals including real estate agents and brokers.

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Massachusetts Federal Court Rules That Insurer’s Decision To Commence Rescission Action Does Not Waive Attorney-Client Privilege

Insurers can take comfort that their decision to bring a rescission action against a Massachusetts insured will not itself effect a waiver of the attorney-client privilege, at least in cases where the carrier’s process for deciding whether to sue is not relevant to the rescission claim itself. The federal district court in Massachusetts recently considered that precise question in Preferred Mutual Insurance Company v. Lodigiani, No. 13-cv-30138-MGM (D.Mass. Aug. 12, 2014).

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Massachusetts Federal Court Declares Insured’s Construction Of General Liability Policy “Irrational”

The federal district court in Massachusetts recently declared that a general liability policyholder’s construction of a policy exclusion was irrational, with the result that the carrier owed no coverage for an underlying personal injury suit. In the course of its discussion, the court also highlighted First Circuit precedent for the proposition that the construction of an insurance policy should comport with “common sense.”

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Massachusetts Federal Court Rules Limits Equitable Contribution Between Insurers

Recently, a Massachusetts federal court issued an opinion limiting the ability of one insurer to seek reimbursement from another insurer under the doctrine of equitable contribution. In the insurance context, equitable contribution allows an insurer to seek contribution from a co-insurer after the insurer pays more than its proportionate share of a loss on a claim that both insurers are obligated to indemnify or defend. 

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