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Biggest Insurance Decisions Of 2018: Midyear Report

June 15, 2018, Law360

Gretchen Hoff Varner and Michael Greenberg are quoted in a Law360 article regarding the biggest insurance decisions of 2018. Commenting on Liberty Surplus v. Ledesma & Meyer Construction, Hoff Varner says that the state high court injected more certainty into liability coverage litigation by making clear that the question of whether an accident has occurred must be viewed through the lens of the policyholder. As such, the decision will be helpful to companies that make decisions that, “through a subsequent chain of events, result in unintended harm — even when there are intentional acts within that chain of events,” she says. “The practical consequence of the Supreme Court's decision is that the insurer does not get to go in and reconstruct the accident from its own perspective to determine if there is some element of volition that would void coverage,” Hoff Varner adds. “The decision aligns tort principles with coverage principles. This should create predictability and stability in the coverage analysis.” According to Hoff Varner, "The decision clearly states what California law is, but I would not be surprised if we saw another round of cases, particularly in the [California] Court of Appeal, that attempt to put flesh on the bones of Ledesma."

According to Greenberg, policyholders should contest any efforts by insurers to limit the Ledesma ruling to its specific facts. “Policyholders shouldn't accept any arguments by insurers that the decision is limited to negligent hiring and supervision claims brought against employers whose employees are accused of sexual molestation or other intentionally caused harm,” Greenberg says. “Its principles should apply more broadly.”

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