Insurance Litigation

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The Insurance Litigation practice group at Dickinson Wright represents insurers in a wide variety of litigation in federal and state courts across the nation. We offer carriers the benefits of both first-chair trial lawyers and seasoned appellate advocates in coverage cases, bad faith and related suits, actions involving punitive damages and statutory damages caps, and other kinds of litigation.

Our attorneys are often chosen to serve as lead defense counsel in complex, multi-defendant cases and as national class action counsel on behalf of insurers. When the insurance carrier is preparing for or on appeal, Dickinson Wright brings in experienced appellate lawyers who combine skills in legal analysis and written and oral advocacy with specific expertise in insurance matters.

 Our Clients

Our insurance clients run the gamut of lines of insurance: property and casualty insurers, including automobile, no-fault and PIP, homeowners, commercial general liability, builders-risk, and cyber-risk coverages; worker’s compensation; legal malpractice, medical malpractice, director & officer liability, and other professional liability insurers; specialty line insurers; health insurers; life insurers; and title insurers. Our lawyers have also represented insurance trade associations, frequently as amici curiae on issues of general concern to the industry.

Our Services

Coverage LitigationDickinson Wright attorneys have represented carriers on a broad range of coverage issues, both in trial courts and on appeal. The issues have ranged from coverage under automobile and homeowners policies for “road rage” injuries to D&O coverage for the cost of litigating or settling complex shareholder litigation. Representative matters include:

  • Representing a D&O insurer before the Arizona Supreme Court, on a certified question from the Ninth Circuit, in upholding summary judgment for the insurer in a contract and bad-faith action challenging the insurer’s withholding of consent to an underlying eight-figure settlement of a securities class action.
  • Secured a favorable dispositive ruling for a builders-risk insurer in an action seeking nine-figure damages at an iron‑ore processing plant, including alleged business-interruption damages, physical damages, and punitive damages for bad faith.
  • Persuaded a federal district court to dismiss, and the federal circuit court to affirm the dismissal of, a coverage action against a D&O insurer for $9 million for the costs of five shareholder class actions.
  • Represented a multi-line insurer in a putative class action challenging the client’s ability to reduce underinsured-motorist payments by the amount of workers’-compensation benefits received.

Bad Faith and Related Litigation: Dickinson Wright attorneys have deep experience in defending high-exposure claims against insurers and reinsurers for bad faith and other extra-contractual liability, including claims under first-party and third-party coverages, as well as workers’-compensation bad faith. Such claims may take many forms, including bad faith and fiduciary-duty claims by insureds or their assignees; tort claimants’ suits for abuse of process or intentional infliction of emotional distress; and claims for violation of statutes proscribing unfair trade practices or unfair claim settlement practices.

Our attorneys have particular experience in defending against claims of “institutional” bad faith based on general company practices and procedures. These include institutional claims based on compensation and bonus practices, profitability targets, claim severity goals, claim-handling processes and reforms, and use of computerized claim-adjustment tools. For example:

  • Obtained dismissal of a putative statewide class action attacking an automobile insurer’s claim-settlement practices for “minor impact soft tissue” injuries.
  • Secured summary judgment on homeowner’s claim that the insurer acted in bad faith in determining that hurricane loss was caused by a non-covered flood rather than wind.
  • Obtained several favorable dispositions of cases brought by workers’-compensation policyholders and claimants alleging unreasonable claim handling and institutional bad faith.
  • Represented a multi-line insurer in multiple bad faith class actions filed in state and federal courts after the state supreme court interpreted policy language to permit insureds to “stack” uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage under multiple policies.

Punitive Damages & Statutory Damage Caps: Our insurance litigators have extensive experience in attacking jury verdicts for punitive damages under both state law and federal due process principles, and have achieved extraordinary reductions of such awards. They have also defended the constitutionality of federal and state statutory damages caps against challenges based on the right to a jury trial, separation of powers, access to courts, equal protection, and due process.

  • Represented the four largest P&C insurance trade associations as to punitive damages in State Farm v. Campbell (U.S. 2003). The American Prospect complained that the High Court’s “decision … took language right from the American Insurance Association’s amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) brief.”
  • Successfully reduced a $55-million punitive-damages verdict against an insurer to $620,000, and then persuaded the appellate court to reduce it further to $155,000.
  • Persuaded an appellate court to vacate or reduce punitive-damages verdicts of $740,000 against another insurer to $40,000.
  • Defending the constitutionality of the New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act’s damage cap before the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Other Insurer Litigation

  • Represented a personal-lines property and casualty insurer in multi-district antitrust litigation brought by auto body shops.
  • Obtained vacation by the state court of appeals of the trial court’s award of $2.4 million in discovery sanctions against an insurer.
  • Argued before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on behalf of an amicus curiae insurer in place of the actual party in an insurance-liquidation dispute, receiving the court’s commendation for “exceptionally well-crafted, well-researched, and persuasive briefs and arguments.”
  • Represented a health insurer and wholly owned HMOs in a putative class action and individual suits alleging violations of quality assurance statutes following a hepatitis C outbreak at a network endoscopy clinic.

Covered Defense of Insureds: Insurance carriers also look to Dickinson Wright attorneys for the defense of insureds in litigation covered under their policies, particularly when the litigation entails high risk, high exposure, or important legal issues. Insurers have retained our lawyers to assist or replace existing counsel, whether in the trial courts or on appeal. Their experience includes a wide variety of contract, tort, and other matters, including premises liability; medical, accounting, and legal malpractice; D&O liability; environmental litigation; and defense of railroads in FELA, grade-crossing, and other personal-injury litigation.

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