Updates on Insurance Coverage, Construction Defectand Commercial Auto Law Developments
Updates on Insurance Coverage, Construction Defect
and Commercial Auto Law Developments
in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming
Greetings from Evans & Co. Counselors and Litigators, with another Case Notes series. We write this month with updates on insurance, construction defect, and commercial auto law in the states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
Past Case Notes are archived at evanslawfirm.com, and we would be pleased to bring current the decisions on which we've reported previously, at your request.
Under Colorado law, their Court of Appeals handles one of many aggressive personal injury claimant’s suits seeking higher than elected UM/UIM limits: here claiming that the rejection of higher limits was not effective unless those limits were disclosed. The court found the rejection language perfectly adequate.
A second Court of Appeals case reaffirms Colorado law and holds that liability policy limits are not increased to cover prejudgment interest under the “additional payments” clauses --- only post-judgment interest. Quite a few states hold otherwise.
Where a private residence was shown to have been largely dedicated to and used for a marijuana growing operation, a residential property insurer had no obligations under its policy terms to pay a property loss, according to a Federal District Court applying Colorado law.
The Utah Supreme Court weighs in on the not-so-bright-line of whether an insurers’ coverage dispute was “fairly debatable”so as to bar any claim against the insurer for bad faith or attorneys’ fees damages. Because the insurer put on “substantial usage evidence” regarding the wording of the exclusion, the court held that it met its burden of proving that its coverage position was “fairly debatable”. This is a must-read case for background on just about all coverage contests arising under Utah law.
The 10th Circuit court of Appeals, applying Utah law, decides an important case where an insurer that defended a construction defects claim, sued another insurer of the same insured, who declined to do so. Damages were for equitable contribution to the cost of defense, pre- and post-judgment interest. The recalcitrant insurer was ordered to pay a portion of the cost of defense on a time-on-risk basis.
A Federal District Court, applying Utah law, denied a motion to bifurcate and stay discovery in a bad faith claim, from plaintiff’s tort claims. The insurer also moved to bifurcate the trial of the two claims, which has extensive support in Utah jurisprudence. The District Court nonetheless denied all bifurcation, saying “the parties would be better informed with respect to settlement efforts”. Another example of federal activism that puts settlement objectives ahead of well-supported decision-making.
We digest another Federal Court decision where an insurers’ hanky-panky regarding document production in Rule 30 (b) (6) depositions of the insurer, lead to costs being assessed against the insurer for discovery abuse.
In Wyoming, their Supreme Court hands down an important decision in a truck liability defense case, which will have application in many other contexts. The plaintiff’s complaint was against the driver and his employer, andcontained familiar allegations regarding negligent hiring and negligent supervision. As these latter allegations can encourage a jury to award damages that they might not award for the driver’s negligence by itself, or against the driver, they are significant objectives of the plaintiff’s bar. But here the employer admitted legal liability for the driver, and the court held that where vicarious liability of the employer is admitted, there is no need or reason to permit the plaintiff to establish other bases of liability in the employer.
Click here for our Case Notes for all three states (28 pages).