In First Mercury Insurance Co. v. First Florida Building Corp., et al., a federal district court ordered that an insurer had a duty to defend its insured against an underlying personal injury lawsuit. 2023 WL 23116, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 3, 2023). First Mercury is a cautionary tale about how insurers may try to circumvent their obligations by improperly considering extrinsic evidence when determining whether they have a duty to defend their insureds.
First Mercury is a coverage dispute over an underlying personal injury lawsuit that was filed against the insured, a construction company, for injuries the claimant allegedly sustained at a construction site. Id. The claimant alleged that he was at the construction site as an invitee who was “working with” the insured. Id. The insurer agreed to defend the insured against the personal injury lawsuit under a reservation of rights. Id. However, the insurer filed a coverage action seeking a declaration that coverage for the personal injury lawsuit was excluded under the policy. Id. Specifically, the insurer, on summary judgment, argued that the claimant was an employee of the insured who was injured in the course of his employment, thus falling within the employer’s liability and workers’ compensation exclusions in the policy. Id. Although the insurer acknowledged that the personal injury complaint against the insured triggered its duty to defend under the policy, the insurer argued that those exclusions relieved its duty to defend or indemnify the insured. Id.
Reprinted courtesy of Lorelie S. Masters, Hunton Andrews Kurth and Yaniel Abreu, Hunton Andrews Kurth
Ms. Masters may be contacted at lmasters@HuntonAK.com
Mr. Abreu may be contacted at yabreu@HuntonAK.com