Insurance Appeals

Overview                                                                                                                                                                                   

Robinson+Cole’s insurance appellate lawyers combine national appellate experience with a thorough understanding of insurance coverage issues, policy forms, and insurance industry practices.

In the past several years alone, we have been involved in more than 40 insurance-related appeals in six of the federal circuit courts of appeal (First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Eleventh), the Supreme Court of the United States, and state appellate or supreme courts across the country (including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Texas, California, Minnesota, Arkansas, Ohio, Kentucky, and Nebraska). We represent national insurance industry associations as amici curiae in federal and state appellate courts nationwide, including the American Insurance Association, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.

Our Services

Many of our appeals involve cutting-edge or precedent-setting issues of insurance law that have the potential to affect numerous cases and/or insurance claims. Our deep knowledge of insurance enables us to litigate insurance appeals with a view toward synthesizing and shaping the law nationwide. We also bring that experience to bear in persuasively answering those unanticipated insurance-related questions at oral arguments that a generalist appellate specialist may be unfamiliar with. We take pride in writing appellate briefs that are succinct, compelling, and easy to read and in preparing thoroughly for oral arguments with moot courts.

In addition to representing insurers, we are retained by insurers to represent their insureds in appeals involving legal issues of broad significance or large judgments.

Our Team

Our team members have national reputations as insurance lawyers and include a member of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers and the chair of the Appellate Law Section of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel. We have litigated appeals and prepared amicus curiae briefs in numerous appellate courts across the country.

With our broad knowledge of insurance law, our lawyers handle insurance appeals efficiently, and with a view toward how one insurance case may impact other cases. Moreover, to enable our clients to achieve cost certainty, we can handle appeals on a fixed-fee basis.

    • Experience
      • Knowles v. Standard Fire Insurance Company 133 S. Ct. 1345 (Supreme Court of the United States, 2013)— This appeal was heard by the Supreme Court of the United States and resulted in a 9-0 opinion in favor of our client. Our petition for certiorari was granted by the Supreme Court after the Eighth Circuit had declined to hear a discretionary appeal and after the Supreme Court had denied a petition for certiorari on the same issue the year before. This is the first case in which the Supreme Court granted review under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. The issue on appeal was whether a named plaintiff in a putative class action can defeat federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 by stipulating to limit damages to $5 million or less even if the amount potentially recoverable by the putative class would exceed the federal jurisdictional amount in the absence of the stipulation. The Supreme Court accepted our argument that the federal court jurisdiction could not be defeated by such a stipulation. The underlying case involved the alleged failure to pay the general contractor overhead and profit as part of the settlement of property insurance claims and was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff after the case was remanded to the federal district court.

      • Successfully represented insurer in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on an appeal from a dismissal of a putative class action alleging that the insurer’s underwriting practices were contrary to a Florida statute. Allen v. USAA Cas. Ins. Co., 790 F.3d 1274 (2015).

      • Successfully represented insurer in precedent-setting liability insurance case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, establishing that insurer had no duty to defend where no lawsuit had been filed against the insured, that a demand letter under Mass. Gen. L. ch. 93A did not trigger a duty to defend, and that there was no duty to settle where the theory of liability against the insured was novel. Sanders v. Phoenix Ins. Co., 843 F.3d 37 (1st Cir. 2016). The decision was featured prominently in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

      • Represented or currently representing national insurance industry associations as amici curiae in multiple state supreme courts and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in various putative class actions involving depreciation of labor costs.

      • Successfully obtained certification and currently representing insurer in the New Jersey Supreme Court in the first insurance appeal it has taken arising from Superstorm Sandy involving a flood sublimit under a commercial property insurance policy. 

      • Successfully represented insurer in the Connecticut Supreme Court on an appeal in a putative class action involving whether the insurer had the right to recover collateral source payments. Rathbun v. Health Net of the Northeast, Inc., 315 Conn. 674 (2015).

      • Successfully represented insurer in the New York Appellate Division, First Department, and the New York Court of Appeals on an appeal from a dismissal of a putative class action involving the insurer’s subrogation practices. Ehrlich v. American Int’l Group, 128 A.D.3d 587 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dep’t 2015), leave to appeal denied, 27 N.Y.3d 901 (2016). 

      • Successfully represented insurer in appeal of industry-wide significance involving four certified questions to the Virginia Supreme Court concerning homeowners’ insurance coverage for Chinese-made drywall. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of our client on all four coverage issues. TravCo Ins. Co. v. Ward, 736 S.E.2d 321 (Va. 2012).

      • Successfully represented insurer in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in an appeal involving commercial general liability insurance coverage and school and educators legal liability insurance coverage in a high-profile case involving an international kidnapping. We obtained a decision reversing the district court’s ruling that there was a duty to defend. Liberty Univ., Inc. v. Citizens Ins. Co. of Am., 792 F.3d 520 (4th Cir. 2015).

      • Successfully represented insurer in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in an appeal involving marine insurance coverage, in which former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter was a member of the panel. We obtained a decision reversing the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the insured, with direction to enter judgment in our client’s favor on remand. Ardente v. Standard Fire Ins. Co., 744 F.3d 815 (1st Cir. 2014).

      • Successfully represented insurer in the New York Appellate Division, Third Department, and the New York Court of Appeals in an appeal involving whether the pollution exclusion and faulty workmanship exclusion barred coverage for a large loss occurring during the course of renovations to a parking garage. The Appellate Division reversed a decision granting summary judgment in favor of the insured and entered summary judgment in favor of our client on both exclusions. Broome County v. Travelers Indem. Co., 125 A.D.3d 1241 (2015). The New York Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal.

      • Represented a major insurance industry association as amicus curiae in Sher v. Lafayette Ins. Co., 988 So. 2d 186 (La. 2008), in which the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed a state appellate court and ruled that the water damage exclusion used in most homeowners insurance policies was applicable to the flooding that occurred in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina, an issue with an estimated exposure to the insurance industry of more than $1 billion.

      • Successfully represented insurers in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in appeals of industry-wide significance arising from Hurricane Katrina, involving the water damage exclusion and Louisiana Valued Policy Law. In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191 (5th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 1182 (2008); Chauvin v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 495 F.3d 232 (5th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 128 S.Ct. 1075 (2008).

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Our Team

Members