Court Addresses When Duty to Defend Ends

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When the only potentially covered claim has been dismissed, must the insurer continue to defend?

August 24, 2020
Anthony L. Miscioscia & Margo E. Meta - White and Williams

There are certain generally held principles regarding an insurer’s duty to defend. One of these principles is that an insurer has a duty to defend its insured if the complaint states a claim that potentially falls within the policy’s coverage. However, there is a lack of consistency regarding the point at which the insurers’ duty to defend ends. When the only potentially covered claim has been dismissed, must the insurer continue to defend?

Certain jurisdictions, such as Hawaii and Minnesota, have held that an insurer’s duty to defend continues through an appeals process, or until a final judgment has been entered, disposing of the entire case. Commerce & Industry Insurance Company v. Bank of Hawaii, 832 P.2d 733 (Haw. 1992); Meadowbrook, Inc. v. Tower Insurance Company, 559 N.W. 2d 411 (Minn. 1997).

Earlier this week, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania took a different approach to this question in Westminster American Insurance Company v. Spruce 1530, No. 19-539, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106534 (E.D. Pa. June 17, 2020) – holding that the trial court’s dismissal of the only potentially covered claim was sufficient to terminate Westminster’s duty to defend.

Reprinted courtesy of Anthony L. Miscioscia, White and Williams and Margo E. Meta, White and Williams
Mr. Miscioscia may be contacted at misciosciaa@whiteandwilliams.com
Ms. Meta may be contacted at metam@whiteandwilliams.com



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