New Jersey Appellate Court Upholds Defense Verdict in Case Alleging Unauthorized Modification of Policy Limits

​The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, has upheld a defense verdict in a matter contending that an automobile insurer improperly lowered liability and personal injury protection coverage limits without the consent of the named insureds. Brown v. Government Employees Ins. Co. concerned changes made to a policy over two years after the policy had been purchased. The policy listed a married couple as the named insureds. The insurer’s records reflect that an individual who was believed to be the plaintiff’s spouse had contacted the insurer to request that her adult stepdaughter be added to the policy. At the same
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New York Appellate Court Holds That Landlord is Not Liable for Fall From Roof Accessible From Apartment Window

​An intermediate New York appellate court has held that a landlord was not liable for a tenant’s fall from the building’s roof, as the fact that the roof was accessible from the roof did not render the plaintiff’s use of the roof foreseeable. Feuerherm v.Grodinsky concerned an accident that occurred at a seven-unit apartment. The injured tenant had moved into the building at most a few weeks prior to the accident. A portion of the building’s roof was accessible from the injured tenant’s room. After drinking at a bar, the plaintiff tenant arrived home at 3 am, and was found
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New Jersey Court Upholds Application of Named-Storm Deductible to Sandy Claim

​A New Jersey trial court has declined to reconsider its previous determination that a $22 million “named-storm” deductible applied to a $54 million property insurance claim for damage arising from Superstorm Sandy. The claim and subsequent lawsuit was brought by insured supermarkets seeking compensation for spoiled food, property damage, business interruption, and other losses following Sandy. The policy defined a “named storm” as a storm declared by the National Weather Service to be a hurricane, tropical cyclone, tropical storm, or tropical depression. The policyholders contended that the deductible did not apply because Sandy was classified as a post-tropical cyclone at
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New York Court Holds That Guilty Plea for Assault & Battery Does Not Preclude Liability Coverage for Incident

​The Supreme Court for New York County has held that a policyholder’s guilty plea for assault does not authorize the denial of liability coverage for a lawsuit arising from the same incident. In United Servs. Auto. Ass’n v. Iannuzzi, the insurer sought a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend and indemnify a policyholder for a lawsuit arising from an altercation. The insurer’s argument was based upon policy language limiting liability coverage to claims arising from “occurrences,” which is in turn defined as an “accident.” The insurer argued that as the policyholder had pled guilty for criminal assault
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Pennsylvania Superior Court Holds That Fraudulent Acts Exclusion Precludes Liability Coverage for ERISA Class Action

​The Pennsylvania Superior Court has held that pursuant to a fraudulent acts policy exclusion, a policyholder was not entitled to liability coverage for a class action verdict arising from the policyholder’s misleading description of an ERISA benefits plan. In Cigna Corp. v. Executive Risk Indem., Inc.,the policyholder sought coverage for a class action challenging the policyholder’s 1998 conversion of its defined benefit pension plan to a cash balance plan. This conversion had the effect of freezing or reducing the benefits of some participants. While a trial court determined that the conversion did not violate ERISA, the court also found that
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District of New Jersey Holds That Bank Has Duty of Care to Prospective Buyers in Foreclosed Home

​A magistrate judge in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey has held that a bank owes a duty of care to prospective purchasers of a foreclosed residence. The underlying case concerned a prospective buyer who tripped on a piece of broken glass while visiting a foreclosed home, causing her to fall and resulting in serious injuries. The injured party filed suit against the bank, real estate agent, real estate agency, and maintenance contractor. ​In support of its motion for summary judgment and in opposition to plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, the bank argued that it
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Pennsylvania Superior Court Reverses Trial Court Determination That Sidewalk Defect is “Trivial”

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has reversed a trial court decision granting summary judgment for the defense in a sidewalk defect case, after determining that the trial court erroneously held as a matter of law that the defect in question was “trivial.” Reinoso v. Warminster Heritage concerned an accident at a shopping center in which the plaintiff tripped and fell on a raised piece of sidewalk, resulting in a broken left hand and fractured ribs. The plaintiff’s expert engineer/architect determined that there was a differnce of 5/8 of an inch between sidewalk sections in the area where the plaintiff fell. The
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New Jersey Supreme Court Holds No Statute of Limitations Applies to Contribution Claims Under Spill Act

  ​The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that claims for contribution under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (“Spill Act”) are not governed by a statute of limitations. The Spill Act authorizes parties who have entered into an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection to remediate a discharge of hazardous materials to seek contribution from other responsible parties. Morristown Associates v. Grant Oil Co. concerned an action by the owner of a shopping center seeking contribution for the costs of remediating a leak in an underground storage tank used by a cleaning business that is
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College Awarded $125K in Court Costs in Action by Injured Gymnast

A federal magistrate judge has awarded Cornell University nearly $125,000 in costs following an unsuccessful action by an injured student. In Duschesneau v. Cornell University, the student sought over $75 million from Cornell following an injury while participating a campus gymnastics club, which rendered the student a quadriplegic. The action was based upon the contention that Cornell was negligent in failing to instruct and supervise the student. Cornell obtained a jury verdict in its favor after contending that it was reasonable and customary for members of club to use the gymnasium without supervision and instruction. ​After the verdict was upheld
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New Jersey Appellate Court Upholds Denial of Coverage and Enforces Anti-Concurrent Cause Language

​In Ashrit Realty LLC v. Tower National Ins. Co., the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court held that an insurer properly denied coverage for a building collapse resulting from soil erosion, following the collapse of a pipe. The Court’s decision reflects its willingness to enforce the plain language of a standard anti-concurrent/anti-sequential causation clause to exclude coverage arising from a non-covered cause, even if a covered cause contributed to the loss. ​A rain storm caused damage to a pipe running below the insured property that was followed by Hurricane Irene, which caused the pipe to collapse. As a
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