As 2020 arrives, it is a time for everyone to reflect on the past year. For some, this will include New Year’s resolutions to eat better, drink less, or save more money. When you lead the exciting life of an insurance lawyer, however, the most important resolution is to brush up on the ever-changing authority affecting insurers in Maryland. But, in order to give you more time to work on your other resolutions, I’ve summarized the top decisions of 2019 for you! Without further ado, the top three decisions affecting insurers in Maryland heading in to 2020 are….
- Selective Way Ins. Co. v. Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 242 Md. App. 688 (2019) – In this case, Nationwide, as the insurer to a general contractor, brought an action for declaratory judgment against the insurers of several subcontractors on a construction project. The defendant insurers had all named the general contractor as their additional insured. Nationwide sought a declaration that these insurers similarly had a duty to defend the general contractor. When summary judgment was granted in favor of Nationwide, Selective Way, the only insurer remaining in the case, appealed—arguing that although some of the allegations against the general contractor could have implicated its policy, it was not ultimately liable for the entire defense because its insureds could not have been responsible for all of the losses. Selective Way further asserted that even if its duty to defend was triggered, its costs should be apportioned based on what claims in the underlying suit were actually covered by its policy. The Maryland Court of Appeals ultimately held against Selective Way on both issues and construed the insurer’s duty to defend broadly—noting the difference between a duty to defend under the policy and Maryland law and, in Selective Way’s view, a promise to pay a portion of defense costs.
- Allstate Insurance Company v. Rochkind, 381 F.Supp.3d 488 (D. Md. 2019) – This was a lead paint case during which the defendants moved for certification on two issues. In the first, the District Court declined to certify whether the all sums or pro rata allocation method would apply—noting that this issue was not unsettled law in Maryland and thus did not require certification. In the second issue, the District Court was tasked with determining whether or not there was need for certification on an issue of exposure. Here, the Defendants disagreed with its Insurer over what period there was lead exposure. They argued that Maryland Courts have not yet decided how to calculate the length of exposure period. The Court ultimately held that this question also is not proper for certification because “this is a question of fact, not law” and that this issue is more properly decided on the evidence.
- Shilling v. Nationwide Insurance Company, 241 Md.App. 261 (2019) – In Shilling, the Court of Special Appeals was tasked with determining when the statute of limitations began to run on an insured’s claim for uninsured motorist coverage. Here, an injured motorist received a policy-limits settlement offer from the at-fault driver, and notified her insurer of the offer. Her insurer, Nationwide agreed to the offer in April of 2013, but Plaintiff waited a significant amount of time before finalizing the settlement—February of 2014. In January of 2016, Plaintiff began settlement negotiations for losses in excess of the settlement based on her underinsured motorist coverage with Nationwide. When plaintiff eventually failed to settle her underinsured motorist claim with Nationwide, and brought suit against Nationwide in September of 2016, Nationwide moved to dismiss the action, arguing that the statute of limitations began to run in April of 2013 when it approved the settlement offer and had since lapsed. Plaintiff argued in opposition that the statute of limitations began to run in February of 2014 when she finalized the settlement and signed the release. Overruling the circuit court’s decision, the Court of Special Appeals ultimately held for the Plaintiff,noting that the underinsured motorist statute should be liberally construed in favor of “innocent victims.”
Kathryn Jackson is an Associate in PK Law’s General Litigation Group where she focuses her practice on insurance defense. Prior to joining the firm as an associate, she served as a summer associate and law clerk in the firm’s General Litigation Group. She can be reached at 443-275-0640 and firstname.lastname@example.org.