Justices to hear oil company’s appeal of denied insurance ransomware claim

The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to hear an oil company’s appeal of a ruling against its claim for insurance coverage after it paid a ransom to hackers to regain control of its computer systems.

Justices last week granted transfer in G&G Oil Co. of Indiana v. Continental Western Insurance Co., 20S-PL-617. The case was one of three appeals the high court granted last week.

In G&G Oil, the company paid a hacker $34,477.50 in bitcoin to regain control of its systems after they were hijacked and held for ransom. The company unsuccessfully filed a claim for reimbursement to its insurer, Continental Western, seeking coverage for the ransomware attack and ensuing losses under the computer fraud provision included in the Commercial Crime Coverage Part of its insurance policy.

Continental denied the claim, noting G&G never purchased the optional computer virus and hacking coverage offered under the agricultural output coverage part of the policy. G&G sued, but the Marion Superior Court awarded summary judgment to Continental — a ruling affirmed in March by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The case has attracted the interest of United Policyholders and Indiana Food & Fuel Association Inc. as friends of the court.

In other transfer decisions last week, the Indiana Supreme Court:

  • Granted transfer in the state’s appeal of a Boone County case in which a man’s drug possession convictions were partially reversed. The Indiana Court of Appeals found the warrantless search of James Combs’ van violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Officers found drugs when they searched Combs’ van after they followed a fluid trail from the site of a crash that led to the damaged van in his driveway.
  • Granted transfer in a dispute over the valuation of shares in a natural gas installation company. A divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in favor of company founder Blake Hartman, finding his shares in the company were worth just over $3.5 million rather than a valuation adviser’s report that they were worth just under $2.4 million. That case is Blake B. Hartman V. BigInch Fabricators & Construction Holding Inc., 19A-PL2263.
  • Denied transfer in a 3-2 decision in a murder appeal. In Larry D. Spivey v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-1687, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Larry Spivey’s murder conviction in Marion Superior Court, rejecting his claims that the trial court abused its discretion in excluding his statement that he “didn’t mean to shoot (his) uncle” Albert Ford and was “shooting at the sidewalk.” Spivey also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence. Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Christopher Goff dissented and would have granted transfer.
  • Denied transfer in a 3-2 decision in which the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed an order appointing a special prosecutor in an estate theft case and remanded to the Franklin Circuit Court. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the entire Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office did not need to be recused from prosecuting Tammy R. Herrmann despite a deputy prosecutor’s apparent conflict. Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Christopher Goff dissented and would have granted transfer in the case, State of Indiana v. Tammy R. Herrmann, 20A-CR-307.
  • Unanimously denied transfer in 13 other cases. Supreme Court transfer dispositions may be viewed here. 

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