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Judges uphold insurers’ share of settlement liability

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A District judge did not err in how he apportioned liability among three insurers for payment of a settlement between an injured worker and a contractor, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held Friday.

Indiana Steel Fabricating hired Central Steel Erectors as a subcontractor on a project. In the course of that work, Brian Colip, a Central Steel employee, fell from a roof and injured himself. He sued ISF and settled for $2.9 million. At issue before the 7th Circuit is how much, if any, should ISF’s insurers, Amerisure Insurance Co. and National Surety Corp., or Central Steel’s insurer, Scottsdale Insurance Co., be liable with regard to the settlement.

U.S. District Judge William Lawrence ultimately found Amerisure and Scottsdale liable for $1 million each and National liable for $900,000.

The appeal relates to Scottsdale’s obligation to contribute to the settlement under its umbrella policy. Central Steel had two policies through Scottsdale: a commercial general liability policy and an umbrella policy. Scottsdale claimed that the umbrella policy contains an explicit exclusion that exempts it from paying; Amerisure and National countered that Scottsdale is estopped from relying on that provision and it doesn’t apply here.

The exclusion says the insurance doesn’t apply to “bodily injury” arising out of a claim or suit brought by any insured against another insured. The judges found a straightforward way of reading this exclusion is as one that applies to lawsuits between two parties covered by the same insurance, and it reflects the intent of Scottsdale and Central Steel not to purchase insurance that would cover personal injury lawsuits between insured parties under the umbrella policy.

The exclusion applies to this case, the 7th Circuit held, so Scottsdale doesn’t have to draw on the umbrella policy to fund the settlement. The appellate court also rejected Amerisure and National’s arguments that Scottsdale didn’t bring up its rights under the exclusion until too late in the game, which constitutes an unfair attempt by Scottsdale to “mend its hold.” The mend-the-hold doctrine prevents a defense in contract litigation from changing defenses midstream without any reason for doing so.

Indiana has only applied this doctrine once – back in 1928 – and the judges declined to use it in this case. In addition, the parties had ample notice of Scottsdale’s intent to assert all defenses to coverage available to it under the policy, Judge Diane Wood wrote.

A typo in some of Scottsdale’s filings regarding how much it seeks to recover does not prevent it from recovering more than $450,000, the judges ruled.

 

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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