Insurance Coverage Opinions and Disputes
Eccleston and Wolf’s insurance coverage practice includes both providing written coverage opinions, as well as the representation of insurance carriers in coverage related litigation in state and federal trial and appellate courts, as well as before the administrative bodies governing complaints, such as the Maryland Insurance Commissioner.
As coverage counsel for various local and national insurance carriers, Eccleston & Wolf has provided coverage analysis of all types of first-party and third-party policies, including, but not limited to:
- Commercial General Liability policies;
- Automobile and Business Auto policies;
- Homeowner policies;
- Errors and Omissions Liability policies;
- Jewelers Block policies;
- Artisan policies;
- Farm Owners policies.
A broad range of topics have been addressed in the evaluation of CGL policies, including not only the duty to defend and/or indemnify, but also the interpretation of common insuring agreement terms, such as whether certain incidents constitute an “occurrence” or whether restitution or equitable relief constitute “damages,” as well as common exclusions, such as the “your work” or “property owned” exclusions, and broad-form and manuscript endorsements, including the “additional insured” endorsement. These analyses, as well as the analysis of Homeowner’s policies, have also included topics such whether substances such as gasoline, lead or mold fall within the “absolute pollution exclusion,” the allocation of coverage among carriers on a pro-rata or alternative basis, the trigger of coverage in continuing exposure claims, and excess versus primary coverage obligations. Other areas of evaluation include the separation of insureds or innocent insured protection provisions, invasion of privacy coverage, and the “business pursuits” exclusion.
Eccleston & Wolf has also provided coverage analysis under Automobile insurance policies and Business auto policies, including the evaluation of “permissive driver” language, the application of cooperation and timely notice requirements and Maryland’s actual prejudice statute, prior knowledge of a claim by the insured, misrepresentations in the application for insurance, underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage provisions and the waiver thereof, and analysis of “covered auto” provision. The firm has also undertaken investigation and, where necessary, litigation of suspected fraudulent claims for automobile accidents and theft claims.
As coverage counsel, Eccleston & Wolf has provided coverage opinions addressing Errors and Omissions or Professional Liability policies, including topics such as the “innocent partner” provisions, the nature of damages sought, the claims made and reported requirements, the allocation of losses among carriers on multiple trigger and continuing trigger cases such as asbestos and lead paint, and the applicability of various exclusions.
In addition to providing coverage opinions, Eccleston & Wolf also regularly represents insurers in litigation with insureds, third parties, other carriers, or state regulatory agencies. In some instances, Eccleston & Wolf represents the carrier from the initial coverage evaluation through the filing and prosecution of declaratory judgment actions. In others, Eccleston & Wolf has been retained after carriers have been sued to defend their coverage decisions.
The areas in which we have provided representation have included:
- claims of: breach of contract bad faith, denial of coverage and rescission of the policy due to misrepresentations in the application;
- demands for defense counsel of the insured’s choice;
- untimely notice of claims and whether the insurer suffered “actual prejudice” as a result;
- the application of the “professional services” exclusion;
- the application of the “absolute pollution” exclusion;
- the denial of coverage under trademark and other related exclusionary language;
- questions of when or whether a third-party tort plaintiff can directly sue a carrier in Maryland.
In the regulatory arena, we have represented carriers in ensuring compliance with the renewal and cancellation of policies, and responding to claims to the Maryland Insurance Administration. In addition, we have acted as national coordinating coverage counsel for one insurance company whose insureds were named as defendants in litigation nationwide brought by various municipalities involving handguns and other firearms.
Eccleston & Wolf has also been retained by insurers to monitor tort litigation and represent the carrier’s interests at settlement conferences and mediations when there are unresolved coverage issues.