Insurance Law, Like Life, Is Complicated.
But It Can Be Successfully Mastered.
My practice emphasizes representing policyholders, both businesses and individuals, who have a disagreement with an insurer. Disputes frequently concern (1) the duty to defend a liability claim against the insured; (2) the duty to pay for the insured’s chosen defense counsel; (3) the duty to reimburse the insured’s chosen counsel for fees incurred (and the amount thereof) from the date of tender to the insurer and the insurer’s acceptance; (4) the duty to settle claims against the insured; (5) disputes over claims handling; and (6) a variety of other disputes affecting the insured’s finances.
Property damage claims (commercial and residential) are also common. Disputes frequently concern (1) whether the cause of the loss is covered; (2) whether property damage exists (as defined by the policy); (3) the scope of repair; (4) the cost of repair; (5) slow or improper claims handling; and (6) the amount and necessity of additional living expense along with the length of time needed to complete repairs. Business interruption coverage is an important aspect of commercial policies, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and governmental restrictions on commerce and mobility.
The types of insurance include general liability (primary and umbrella), automobile liability, common carrier liability, professional liability, homeowners, builder’s risk, commercial property, directors & officers, life, title, disability, health and worker’s compensation policies having two coverages (ordinary worker’s compensation and employer liability.) Sometimes instances of insurance broker/agent malpractice arise, and unfair business practices claims may also be involved.
While many claims are informally resolved, still litigation is sometimes necessary to enforce the insured’s rights. And because of the nature of my practice, which emphasizes insurance coverage on behalf of insureds, I usually represent insureds in coverage disputes where the insurer has improperly denied coverage. I have been successful in filing amicus (friend of the court) briefs in Supreme Court cases to influence the law for insureds. Clarification of California insurance law helps my clients.
Many of my clients are referred by their own attorneys who do not specialize in insurance matters. Sometimes I just advise and consult. In duty to defend cases, I coordinate with the insured’s personal defense counsel to protect coverage and require the insurer to pay their fees.
Here are some representative examples:
- Sheppard, Mullin vs. J-M Mfg. (2018) 6 Cal.5th 59 (amicus re non-waiveability of lawyers’ duty of loyalty.)
- Liberty Surplus Ins. vs. Ledesma & Meyer Constr. (2018) 5 Cal.5th 216 (amicus re negligent supervision is a covered occurrence (accident) under a business general liability policy.)
- J.R. Marketing vs. Hartford Casualty (2015) 61 Cal.4th 988 (amicus re waiver of insurer’s right to control defense after denial of coverage and forfeiture of statutory Cumis rights.)
- Hartford Casualty vs. Swift Distribution (2014) 59 Cal.4th 277 (amicus re California follows the Restatement of Torts for disparagement cases under a business general liability policy.)
- Zhang vs. Superior Court (2013) 57 Cal.4th 364 (amicus re Moradi-Shalal vs. Superior Court does not bar §17200 suits against insurers.)
- Minkler vs. Safeco Ins. (2010) 49 Cal.4th 315 (amicus re severability clause requiring coverage to each insured).
- Delgado vs. Interinsurance Exch. (2009) 47 Cal.4th 302 (amicus re duty to defend)
- Safeco Ins. Co. vs. Robert S. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 758 (amicus re prohibiting insurer’s contractual repeal of Insurance Code §533 and applying severability clause so an exclusion as to one insured does not automatically apply to other insured.)
Courts of Appeal
- Silvers & Gold vs. St. Bd. of Equalization (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 1215 (enforcement of taxes on premiums paid to nonadmitted insurers doing business in California.)
- Infinet Marketing Services vs. American Motorists Ins. Co. (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 168 (worker’s compensation insurance coverage and leased employees)
- Cardelucci vs. Hartford Casualty Ins. Co. (No. B 177967, 2005) re prohibiting nonrenewal of homeowners policy with earthquake insurance.
- American Insurance Association vs. Garamendi (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 228 (amicus for United Policyholders supporting Department of Insurance regulation prohibiting insurers’ “use it and lose it” practices, and successful request for Supreme Court order of depublication.)
- State Farm Ins. Co. vs. Majorino (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 974 (SLAPP suit to dismiss insurer’s declaratory relief action.)
- Golden Eagle Ins. Co. vs. Rocky Cola Cafe (2001) 94 Cal.App.4th 120 (requiring business insurer to defend against employee’s suit and restricting the application of an Employment Related Practices Exclusion.)
- Rocky Cola vs. Golden Eagle Ins. Co. (CA2/1, 2003) re obtaining attorneys fees after defeating insurer’s no-coverage suit.
- Palub vs. Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co. (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 645 (coverage for house crushed by slope failure caused by weather conditions, earth movement was the result.)
- Sanchez-Scott vs. Alza Pharmaceuticals (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 365 (invasion of privacy by doctor allowing drug salesman to view breast cancer patient’s exam.)
- Martino vs. Kiernan (CA2/4, 2000) re insurer’s employees as defense counsel is unlawful practice of law.)
- Weston and Transcontinental Ins. Co. vs. Superior Court (Graham) (CA 2/4, 1999) re overruling of Moradi-Shalal vs. Superior Court barring Insurance Code § 790.03 private right of action.)
- California Casualty vs. Northland Ins. Co. and Yessian vs. Allstate Ins. Co. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1682 (does exclusion for use of inboard vessel apply to a waverunner.)
- Lorenz vs. Commercial Acceptance Ins. Co. (1995) 40 Cal.App.4th 981 (failure of nonadmitted insurer to post a bond to litigate in California.)
- Maler vs. Superior Court (Federal Ins. Co.) (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1592 (whether Proposition 103 created a private right of action against an insurer and Legislature did authorize suits under Insurance Code §790.03.)
- State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. vs. Superior Court (Durant) (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 1222 (use of dual [defense and coverage] adjuster creates a conflict requiring insurer to pay for insured’s personal independent counsel.) I also was a consultant in San Diego Navy Federal Credit Union vs. Cumis Ins. Society (1984) 162 Cal.App.3d 358 (Cumis.)
- Hartford Fire & Casualty Ins. Co. vs. Superior Court (Tobin) (1983) 142 Cal.App.3d 406 (exclusion for use of an aircraft in homeowner’s policy applies to pilot’s widow (and her community property interest) being sued for wrongful death because of her husband’s negligent piloting.)
- Bercu vs. Potomac Ins. Co. (9th Cir. 1994) re duty to defend limited partner who is alleged to be general partner of insured limited partnership.
- Interstate Fire & Casualty Co. vs. Stuntman, Inc. (9th Cir. 1988) 861 F.2d 203, with Hon. Harvey Schneider (exclusion for bodily injuries to a participant [a stuntwoman in Smokey & the Bandit] did not apply to her emotional and mental injuries.)
- DeSimone vs. Bove (E.D.Pa. 1986) No. 86-5529, aff’d. by mem. opn. 845 F.2d 101 (3d Cir. 1988), cert. den. 488 U.S. 853; 1009 S.Ct. 138; 102 L.Ed.2d 111 (1988) re Erie requires federal court to follow state’s most recent substantive law.
The Other Tripartite Relationship, Advocate Magazine, September, 2017.
Contact STEVEN W. MURRAY
14930 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 205
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
(818) 501-2277; fax (818) 501-6441; [email protected]