Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff brought this lawsuit based on a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Insurance Practices Act (CUIPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 38a0815 et seq., asserting breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq. The trial court dismissed the claims, determining that the litigation privilege deprived the court of subject matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the litigation privilege barred Plaintiff's CUTPA-CUIPA claim. View "Dorfman v. Smith" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court answered a question certified to the Supreme Court by the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut in this declaratory judgment action by holding that Defendant's plea of nolo contendere could not be used to trigger a criminal acts exclusion in a homeowners insurance policy governed by Connecticut law.At issue was whether Plaintiff, Allstate Insurance Company, could use Defendant's plea of nolo contendere to the charge of assault in the first degree to trigger a criminal acts exclusion that would bar Plaintiff's coverage of Defendant in a civil action involving the same underlying incident. The district court certified the question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that Defendant's plea of nolo contendere could not be used by Plaintiff to establish the applicability of the criminal acts exclusion of the relevant policy. View "Allstate Insurance Co. v. Tenn" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting Insured's application to compel appraisal with regard to a dispute as to the extent of Insurer's replacement obligation under Con. Gen. Stat. 38a-316e(a) (matching statute), holding that there was no error.At issue was whether a dispute as to the extent of an insurer's obligation under the matching statute to replace items or items in a covered loss for real property with "material of like kind and quality so as to conform to a reasonably uniform appearance" was a question properly relegated to the appraisal arbitral process or a question of coverage to be resolved by the court in the first instance. The trial court granted Insured's application to compel arbitration in this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the parties' dispute fell within the scope of the insurance policy's appraisal clause. View "Klass v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that the trial court incorrectly determined that Defendant was relieved of its duty to defend in the underlying property dispute.Plaintiff contracted with New Beginnings Residential Renovations, LLC to renovate Plaintiff's house. The house received extensive physical damage during the renovation, and Plaintiff brought an action against New Beginnings for property damage. New Beginnings tendered defense of the case to Defendant pursuant to a commercial general liability insurance policy. Defendant declined to defend under two of the policy's "business risk" exclusions. Plaintiff was awarded a default judgment against New Beginnings. Plaintiff then brought this action against Defendant under the direct action statute seeking recovery for the judgment against New Beginnings. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that the policy exclusions precluded coverage. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the exclusions did not relieve Defendant of its duty to defend. View "Nash Street, LLC v. Main Street America Assurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting the state's motion to dismiss this tort action, holding that a state's waiver of sovereign immunity in Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-556 for claims arising from a state employee's negligent operation of a state-owned and -insured motor vehicle extends to litigants who are state employees.Plaintiff, a state employee, was a passenger in a motor vehicle owned and insured by the state and operated by another state employee, William Texidor, when another vehicle operated by Tyreke Brooks struck their vehicle. Brooks' vehicle was uninsured. Plaintiff, who applied for and received workers' compensation benefits, brought this action agains the state and Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Company alleging that Texidor's operation of the vehicle was negligent. The state filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground of sovereign immunity. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court had jurisdiction pursuant to the waiver of sovereign immunity in section 52-556; (2) Plaintiff's action against the state was barred by Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-284(a); and (3) therefore, the form of judgment was improper, and the case is remanded with direction to render judgment for the state. View "Feliciano v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the determination of the trial court that the collapse provisions of Insured's homeowners insurance policy unambiguously foreclosed coverage under the circumstances of this case, holding that the trial court did not err.Insured brought this action against Insurer claiming that Insurer breached the homeowners insurance policy it issued by denying coverage for cracks in the basement walls of Insured's home under the collapse provisions of the policy. The trial court granted summary judgment for Insurer because the policy defined "collapse" as "an abrupt falling down or caving in" of the home and because Insured's remained standing and was in no imminent danger of falling down. On appeal, Insured argued that the definition of "collapse" in Beach v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., 532 A.2d 1297 (Conn. 1987), applied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, even if this Court agreed that the definition of collapse contained in the policy was ambiguous and that, therefore, Beach's substantial impairment standard applied to Insured's claim, Insured's claim of coverage would fail even under that standard. View "Jemiola v. Hartford Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
by
The Supreme Court answered certified questions concerning the application of Connecticut insurance law in this action to recover damages for, among other things, breach of an insurance contract, concluding that the definition of "collapse" in Beach v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance co., 532 A.2d 1297 (Conn. 1987), applied in this case.In Beach, the Supreme Court held that the term "collapse," when not defined in a homeowners insurance policy, is "sufficiently ambiguous to include coverage for any substantial impairment of the structural integrity" of the insureds' home. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Beach standard also required a showing that the building was in imminent danger of falling down or caving in. The Supreme Court concluded that it does, holding that the "substantial impairment of structural integrity" standard requires a showing that the building is in imminent danger of falling down or caving in, or in other words, in imminent danger of an actual collapse. View "Vera v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
by
The Supreme Court reformulated a certified question concerning the application of Connecticut insurance law in this action to recover damages for, among other things, breach of an insurance contract, concluding that the definition of "collapse" in Beach v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., 532 A.2d 1297 (Conn. 1987), applied in this case.At issue before the Supreme Court was the definition of the term "collapse" in a homeowners insurance policy, when otherwise undefined, as set forth in Beach v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., 532 A.2d 1297 (Conn. 1987), as "any substantial impairment of the structural integrity" of the insureds' home. The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut certified questions to the Supreme Court regarding whether Beach's definition of collapse applied in this case. Insureds sued Insurer, claiming that their homeowners insurance policy covered the cracking and tumbling of their concrete basement walls. The Supreme Court held (1) the Beach standard applied to Insureds' policy; (2) the "substantial impairment of structural integrity" standard requires proof that the home is in imminent danger of falling down; and (3) the term "foundation" unambiguously encompasses the basement walls of Insureds' home. View "Karas v. Liberty Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming in part and reversing in part numerous interlocutory decisions made by the trial court in connection with the first and second phases of a trial between R.T. Vanderbilt Company, Inc. and numerous insurance companies, holding that the appellate court's opinion properly resolved the significant issues raised on appeal.These appeals concerned questions of insurance law arising from coverage disputes between Vanderbilt and the insurer defendants, who issued comprehensive general liability insurance policies to Vanderbilt for more than a half a century. The disputes stemmed from lawsuits alleging injuries from exposure to industrial talc containing asbestos that Vanderbilt mined and sold. On interlocutory appeal from several decisions made by the trial court the appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the appellate court properly construed the occupational disease exclusions to bar coverage for occupational disease claims brought not only by Vanderbilt employees but also by individuals who contracted an occupational disease while working for other employers; and (2) the appellate court properly resolved the remaining issues on appeal. View "R.T. Vanderbilt Co., Inc. v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
by
In this breach of contract and negligent infliction of emotional distress action the Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court's judgment affirming the trial court's judgment denying Defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict for Plaintiff.This action stemmed from Defendant's handling of Plaintiff's homeowner's insurance claim. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff on both counts. Defendant filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, renewing its motion for a directed verdict, arguing that the verdict was not supported by sufficient evidence presented during Plaintiff's case-in-chief. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Defendant contended that the so-called waiver rule - which provides that a defendant waives the right to appeal the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion for directed verdict at the close of the plaintiff's case by opting to introduce evidence in its own behalf - is inapplicable to civil cases in which a trial court reserves decision on a motion for directed verdict. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that a court reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a jury's verdict must consider all of the evidence considered by the jury returning the verdict, not just the evidence presented in the plaintiff's case-in-chief. View "Riley v. Travelers Home & Marine Insurance Co." on Justia Law