The Illinois Supreme Court handed down a big win for policyholders just in time for the holidays. In Acuity v. M/I Homes of Chicago, LLC, the court joined the mainstream of jurisdictions and reversed years-old precedent that severely limited policyholders’ ability to tap their liability coverage for construction defect and faulty workmanship claims.
Temperatures in Arizona this week reached over 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The water temperature in the Florida Keys was reported to reach sauna-like levels, threatening the life of habitat-sustaining coral. Atmospheric conditions are routinely blamed for violent storms and for wildfires that darken the skies.
As summer vacation rolls around and hotels, restaurants and other hospitality companies gear up for a busy tourist season, coastal businesses in the U.S. Southeast, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean may be welcoming an unexpected guest—the Great Atlantic Sargassum Seaweed Belt. Businesses are bracing for this ten-million-ton mass of brown seaweed, which is floating on the ocean surface and extending from the west coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico.
Loyal readers of this blog may recall our recent analysis of Norwegian Hull Club v. North Star Fishing Co., an insurance coverage dispute that appeared likely to turn on the meaning of a blank space in a very large builder’s risk policy. After bench trial, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle has filled that gap—giving the policyholders most, but not all, of the coverage that they sought. Under the judge’s decision, based upon industry custom and practice, that blank space provided the policyholder with nearly $20 million in extra coverage.
Insurance coverage disputes often turn on the meaning of the specific words used in a policy. Norwegian Hull Club v. North Star Fishing Co., currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, presents a twist—it turns on the meaning of a blank space.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled that neither the policyholder nor the insurer was entitled to summary judgment regarding the interpretation of a critical policy provision, reasoning that an empty field rendered the clause ambiguous. But as the case now proceeds to trial, the most interesting part of the district court’s opinion might be its own blank space: contra proferentem, the argument it doesn’t address.
Earlier in 2022, CBRE forecasted a 14.1% year-over-year increase in construction costs by year-end 2022, as labor and material costs continue to rise, despite the expectation that overall cost inflation for materials would begin to cool by the end of the year. Commercial construction costs have indeed increased, as Turner Construction Company’s Third Quarter 2022 Building Cost Index reported an 8.62% yearly increase from the third quarter of 2021, a 2.18% quarterly increase from the second quarter of 2022. In addition to supply chain issues for building materials, skilled labor shortages and construction wage growth persists.
As the number and severity of cyberattacks rise, the importance of insurance coverage to offset resultant loss becomes increasingly important. An opinion issued by the Ohio Court of Appeals is a happy reminder that there may be coverage for cyber-related loss even if you did not buy cyber-specific insurance and that policyholders should review their entire insurance portfolio when confronted by a cyber loss.
Early in 2021, we wrote about potential insurance implications that could arise from the then-new Biden Administration’s expected regulatory priorities. Among other things, we noted that heightened scrutiny on coal ash was expected. On January 11, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed that prediction, issuing a press release announcing “key steps” it is taking to “protect groundwater from coal ash contamination.” As companies with coal ash liabilities consider EPA’s new guidance and next steps, they should be aware that they may have insurance that could cover some of their coal ash cleanup costs.
After hitting the shores of Louisiana with winds of up to 172mph in late August, Hurricane Ida’s remnants barreled up to the northeastern United States, leaving waves of destruction in its wake. The deluge of rain—more than half-a-foot fell in just a few hours—turned streets and subway platforms into rivers. The catastrophic flooding caused by the record-breaking rainfall killed several dozen people, left thousands without power, and damaged countless homes and businesses. All told, Ida is said to have caused more than $50 billion in damage. And scientists predict that, because of climate change, heavy rainfall-producing storms like Ida will only become more and more frequent.
The legal cannabis industry in the U.S. is growing at an unprecedented rate and is projected to reach $73.6 billion by 2027. While federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, many states have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana. As state restrictions ease, new business opportunities continue to emerge.