Litigation Between Insurers Should be Avoided

Potential of Coverage is Enough to Require an Insurer to Defend

Post 4765

See the full video at https://rumble.com/v4m2j79-litigation-between-insurers-should-be-avoided.html  and at https://youtu.be/CzzxD2wh46g

When two or more insurance companies issue policies with a potential for coverage of a claim of bodily injury they should work together to protect their mutual insured rather than litigate with the insured and the other insurers. Litigation is expensive and may result in a case and result they did not wish to have.

In Admiral Insurance Co. v. Track Group, Inc. f/k/a Securealert, Inc., and Jeffrey Mohammed Abed, and Certain Underwriters At Lloyd’s, London Subscribing To Policy No. CJ10028219, No. 1-23-1210, 2024 IL App (1st) 231210-U, Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division (March 27, 2024) the Illinois Court of Appeals looked to protect the interests of the insured other than the interest of the insurers.

FACTS

This appeal concerned an insurance coverage dispute between a general liability carrier and a professional liability carrier. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London Subscribing to Policy No. CJ10028219 (Underwriters) and Admiral Insurance Co. (Admiral) both insured Track Group, Inc., a company in the business of electronically monitoring individuals using ankle monitors. Track Group was sued after a person wearing the ankle monitor sustained severe injuries while driving his vehicle. Underwriters had paid the costs of Track Group’s defense up to the time of the decision but it argued that Admiral should share in the costs, as it believes both insurance policies provide coverage in this case. The circuit court held that Admiral did not owe coverage under the terms of its insurance policy with Track Group.

BACKGROUND

Underwriters issued Track Group a general liability insurance policy, while Admiral issued a professional liability insurance policy. Track Group sought coverage under both policies in connection with a personal injury lawsuit filed against it in Los Angeles, California. The plaintiff in that suit, Jeffrey Mohamed Abed, alleged that his leg was torn from his body after his foot, on which he was wearing the ankle monitor, became lodged between the gas and brake pedals in the vehicle he was driving. Admiral denied coverage and filed a declaratory action, contending that it does not owe coverage under these circumstances.

The circuit court granted Admiral’s motion for summary judgment and denied Underwriters’ motion for summary judgment.

ANALYSIS

On appeal, Underwriters argued that the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Admiral, contending that the court’s interpretation of the Admiral policy was overly narrow. Underwriters argued that Admiral policy covers the injury at issue.

Where policy language is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation, it is considered ambiguous and will be construed strictly against the insurer. Courts construe the policy as a whole, giving effect to each provision where possible because the court must assume that the provision was intended to serve a purpose.

According to the plain language of the policy Admiral is potentially liable for wrongful acts arising out of the provision of “professional services” and “technology products.”  The policy includes a general exclusion for bodily injury and property damage. However, that exclusion does not apply to bodily injury arising out of the provision of “professional services.” In other words, Admiral’s policy could potentially cover bodily injury arising out of the provision of “professional services.”

One of the four components of the ankle monitor is an internal central processing unit. The ankle monitor can make and receive calls, generate alarms, receive radio frequency transmissions, and communicate movements to Track Group. Because the ankle monitor is an electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data it is potentially a computer. Moreover, the ankle monitor likely constitutes “hardware.” Because the ankle monitor is potentially computer hardware, the Court of Appeals held that it is potentially covered by Admiral’s policy and potential coverage is all that is required to trigger an insurer’s duty to defend its insured.

Because the facts of Abed’s lawsuit against Track Group potentially fell within the terms of the policy the decision of the Circuit Court was reversed.

ZALMA OPINION

The court did what the insurers should have done – it read the policy which covered claims resulting from professional services or technology products. Since the ankle monitor was clearly a technology product and was claimed to be the cause of the injury that ripped off Mr. Abed’s leg, there was a potential of coverage and all of the insurers owed Track Group a defense. Working together both insurers could have saved money and served their insured fairly.

(c) 2024 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.

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About Barry Zalma

An insurance coverage and claims handling author, consultant and expert witness with more than 48 years of practical and court room experience.
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