June 16, 2004 |

Insurance Coverage

Our client was accused of civil kidnap (taking a friend and her children on vacation, out-of-state, in alleged violation of a court order). We tendered the matter to the client’s homeowner insurer on the basis that this was a “false imprisonment” case. The claim was denied. Under California law an insurer can only deny a claim, based on an exclusion, if the insurer has sufficient evidence to prove the validity of the denial at the time of issuing the denial. That is, the insurer cannot deny based on a belief that subsequent discovery will provide the factual support. Therefore, it isn’t necessary for the insured to win a motion for summary judgment. It is sufficient for the insurer just to lose a motion for summary judgment. We were fortunate that the insurer made such a motion and we were able to identify a case (from the state of Washington) in which similar allegations had resulted in a finding of coverage. The court agreed with our position and denied the insurers motion. The case ultimately settled for the full amount claimed plus the full amount of attorney’s fees expended in the coverage litigation.