Panel Rehearing Denied by Ninth Circuit
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Readers of Zalma on Insurance read a digest of the earlier version of this case at http://zalma.com/blog/?s=BERNAL. That decision was amended by the Ninth Circuit to state that “The district court shall enter judgment for MBIC.” Appellee’s petition for panel rehearing was otherwise denied. No further petitions for rehearing will be accepted.
In Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company v. Neuropathy Solutions, Inc., dba Superior Health Centers, and Rigoberto Bernal, an individual; et al., No. 22-55272, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit (May 5, 2023) the Ninth Circuit refused rehearing and reiterated its decision allowing the insurer to recover from its insured money paid under a reservation of rights.
In this diversity action under California law, Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company (MBIC) sought reimbursement of $2 million that it paid under a reservation of rights to settle litigation brought against its insured, Neuropathy Solutions, Inc. (Neuropathy).
To the extent that the underlying Bernal action falls within the coverage provisions of the insurance policy (i.e., to the extent Neuropathy’s liability arose out of an accidental “occurrence”), coverage is excluded under the policy’s “Professional Services” exclusion.
Based on California case law, the insurance policy’s text, and the operative complaint in the Bernal action, Neuropathy’s liability in Bernal fell within the “Professional Services” exclusion. Starting from the very first sentence of the Bernal complaint, it is evident that Neuropathy incurred liability as a result of the professional services it provided.
The “Professional Services” exclusion extends to wrongdoing in the supervision and monitoring of others in the provision of professional services, and Neuropathy incurred liability because of its provision of professional advertising and medical services, not inadequate record keeping or poor customer service. Finally, the complaint’s allegation that Neuropathy engaged in discriminatory “marketing techniques and high-pressure sales tactics” falls within the “Professional Services” exclusion for advertising services and health advice or instruction.
Neuropathy’s liability in the Bernal action was thus excluded from coverage, and MBIC is entitled to reimbursement of the $2 million it paid to settle that lawsuit. The district court shall enter judgment for MBIC.
The Ninth Circuit, for the second time, reiterated that an insurer that paid a settlement under a reservation of rights and established that there was no coverage for the loss alleged because of a clear and unambiguous exclusion, was entitled to reimbursement of the funds it spent to settle the law suit. The Insured, Neuropathy owes $2 million plus interest to MBIC.
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