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Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith

Attorney Lead for Practice Group

Fineman Krekstein & Harris has developed an expertise in insurance coverage and insurance bad faith law.  We have served as counselors in rendering coverage opinion letters and advising clients on coverage claims, and how to institute practices that will preclude bad faith claims.  We have also litigated coverage and bad faith cases when necessary to assert or defend the carrier’s position.  We understand these issues from the perspective of preventing unnecessary problems before they have a chance to arise, to litigating them before judge or jury.  Our experience in bad faith litigation is well reflected in our attorneys’ practice as counselors and litigators, as speakers and authors, and in our comprehensive Pennsylvania Insurance Bad Faith Case Blog.

Representative Matters

  • Represented an insurance carrier that was sued for breach of contract and bad faith arising out of the insurer’s denial of coverage for a civil law suit in which the insured allegedly accidently killed the decedent.  The insured pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter admitting that he had an imperfect claim of self-defense, when he struck the decedent with a loaded pistol that accidently discharged, killing the decedent.  Agreeing with our interpretation of the criminal acts exclusion in the insurance policy, the court found that the insurer acted properly in denying coverage because it was the criminal nature of the act, not the degree of criminal culpability, which triggered the applicability of the exclusion.
  • Won a judgment on the pleadings in a declaratory judgment action filed on the insurer’s behalf in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas’ Commerce Case Management Program.  The Court found that the alleged use of the automobile attributed to the insured’s employee, which allegedly caused the harm, was excluded under the policy.  The underlying case had been stayed pending the resolution of the declaratory judgment action, which was decided on a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.
  • Successfully obtained a dismissal of an insured’s claims for breach of contract and bad faith against an insurer in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The insured had been sued for harm caused on its business premises, and sought a defense from its carrier. The carrier denied that it had any obligations to defend or cover the loss in that underlying action based on the facts and the policy’s terms and conditions. The insured then brought the breach of contract and bad faith claims in federal court, based on the denial. The Firm’s motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure12(b)(6) was successful, the Court first finding no basis for coverage as to the underlying claims, which in turn eliminated any possibility of bad faith.
  • The Firm obtained a successful decision in a bad faith case on behalf of the insurer and a third party administrator in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania; and then were successful in having that  decision upheld on appeal by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.   The issue focused on the timing of the alleged underlying injury, an alleged duty to find the actual insurer, and the insured’s claims that the reservation of rights letter caused him actionable physical harm.  The Firm won a motion for summary judgment, contesting each of the numerous theories of liability being advanced by the insured, as the court found no duty breached.  The Superior Court affirmed.
  • Represented an insurance carrier in a case in which police officers sought a defense and indemnity in response to plaintiffs’ claims that the officers sent anonymous harassing text messages. Plaintiffs sued the officers alleging defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence per se for violations of two criminal statutes – harassment and disorderly conduct – invasion of privacy and conspiracy.   The trial court ruled in the insurer’s favor, finding that there was no duty to defend and indemnify the police officers as there was no occurrence to trigger coverage and that the allegations of intentional conduct fell outside the scope of their employment.
  • Obtained summary judgment in favor of the insurer for its alleged bad faith in denying a water loss claim.   Plaintiff alleged that she had interior water damage to her home due to wind damage to the roof.  After conducting a thorough inspection of the roof and the interior, the insurer concluded that none of the damage caused to the interior or the roof was caused by wind damage. The plaintiff instituted an action against the insurer arising out of its denial to pay benefits for her alleged loss.  The court agreed that the insurer acted reasonably in denying coverage and did not act in bad faith.