Statutory Offer To Compromise Void Without Express Acceptance Provision

Mostafavi Law Group, APC v. Larry Rabineau, APC, et al., 2021 WL 803685 (March 3, 2021); Second Appellate District Court of Appeal, Division Four, Case No. B302344 (March 3, 2021).

California Code of Civil Procedure section 998 Offers to Compromise are an effective and widely-used settlement tool in litigation.  The main objective of a Section 998 Offer “is to encourage settlement by providing a strong financial disincentive to a party – whether it be a plaintiff or a defendant – who fails to achieve a better result than the party could have achieved by accepting his or her opponent’s settlement offer.”  Bank of San Pedro v. Sup. Ct., 3 Cal.4th 797, 804 (1992).  In the event an offeree rejects a Section 998 Offer and fails to achieve a better result at trial, Section 998 shifts certain costs to the offeree, including the offeror’s reasonable expert costs.  This case answers whether acceptance of a Section 998 Offer, served without a required acceptance provision, gives rise to a valid judgment.  It does not. Continue Reading

Keeping the Cap On the Policy: Unreasonable Conduct Is a Necessary Element of a “Bad Faith Failure to Settle” Claim

Pinto v. Farmers Ins. Exch., ___ Cal. App. 5th ___ (2021)

Over the past several years, the insurance industry in California has been plagued by waves of “bad faith failure to settle” claims.  These claims arise out of a variety of circumstances and can take many forms, but at their core involve the following: an insured injures a third party; that third party then offers to settle his/her claim for the policy limits; but the insurer, for one reason or another, fails to accept that settlement demand.  Once that happens, the third party claimant then takes the position that the “cap is off” the policy such that the insurer should be responsible for paying the full amount of any judgment the claimant obtains against the insured, even if it exceeds the policy limits. Continue Reading

Continuous and Progressive Damage Raised Factual Question as to the Timing of “Occurrence”

Thomas Guastello v. AIG Specialty Insurance Company, — Cal.Rptr.3d –, 2021 WL 650878 (Cal. Ct. App., Feb. 19, 2021), Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal, Case No. G057714.

Various stakeholders in the Pointe Monarch housing development in Dana Point, California, accused subcontractor C.W. Poss Inc. (“Poss”) of negligently designing and constructing retaining walls.  One such party, Thomas Guastello, sued Poss for damage to a perimeter wall in the backyard of Guastello’s property.  According to Guastello, in January 2010, a retaining wall close to his property designed and constructed by Poss failed and caused soil to collapse and damage a perimeter wall on Guastello’s property. Continue Reading

Anti-Slapp Statute Does Not Apply To Allegations That Insurer Improperly Refused To Provide Cumis Counsel

Miller Marital Deduction Trust v. Zurich American Insurance Company, — P.3d –, 2019 WL 5304862; First Appellate District Court of Appeal, Division Three, Case No. A155398 (October 21, 2019).

In Miller Marital Deduction Trust v. Zurich American Insurance Company, the California Court of Appeal held that allegations that an insurance company improperly failed to provide independent, “Cumis” counsel did not arise from protected speech and thus were not subject to California’s anti-SLAPP statute.

Seeking to avoid liability for environmental contamination on a property they owned, the Millers sued several prior owners of the property, including the Miller Estate. Zurich retained panel counsel to defend the Miller Estate against this lawsuit. Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Applies Notice-Prejudice Rule to Violation of First-Party Consent Provision as a Predicate to Policy Forfeiture, but Confirms that No Prejudice is Required to Enforce a Third-Party “No Voluntary Payments” Provision

Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Company, — P.3d –, 2019 WL 4065521 (2019); California Supreme Court, Case No. S239510 (Aug. 29, 2019).

On certified questions by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the California Supreme Court in Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Company examined notice and consent provisions under both first-party and third-party coverage – despite the parties’ dispute as to the type of policy coverage at issue. Continue Reading

Insurer’s Mistake in Treating Non-Resident Relative as an Insured Under UM Coverage Of Umbrella Policy Did Not Create Coverage by Estoppel

Melissa Komorsky v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, et al. — Cal.Rptr.3d –, 2019 WL 1451275 (Cal. Ct. App., March 1, 2019), Second Appellate District Court of Appeal, Case No. B286443.

An uninsured motorist struck and killed Linda Liker, which led to competing claims for uninsured motorist (“UM”) benefits between Ms. Liker’s surviving husband, Alan, and her daughter from a prior marriage, Melissa Komorsky. Melissa did not reside in the Likers’ home. Continue Reading

California Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations Upheld Following a Near-Decade Long Legal Challenge to their Enforceability

Following nearly a decade of uncertainty as to their enforceability, the California Court of Appeal upheld key components of the California Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations on September 20, 2018 and affirmed that the California Insurance Commissioner has the authority to penalize insurers for engaging in improper claim settlement practices based upon even a single act of misconduct. Continue Reading

Good Fences Don’t Always Make Good Neighbors: California Court of Appeal Holds that “Invasion of the Right of Private Occupancy” May Include Non-Physical Invasion of Rights in Real Property

In Albert v. Truck Insurance Exchange, No. B278295 (Cal. Ct. App. May 15, 2018), the California Court of Appeal, Second District, considered whether an insurer owed a duty to defend an insured who was sued for erecting a fence that partially blocked an easement providing access to a neighbor’s property. The Court of Appeal concluded that the insurer owed a duty to defend because the policy provided coverage for personal injuries arising out of a wrongful “invasion of the right of private occupancy.” According to the Court, such coverage may include a non-physical invasion of rights in real property.

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