Occasionally, I’ll answer a research question for an IIABNY member and I’ll be asked, “How do you know this stuff? How do you get these answers so fast? You must be the answer man!” It’s flattering, but I would be lying if I called myself a walking insurance encyclopedia. I’m not. I’m only half kidding when I tell people my job is to look stuff up. After all, one of my titles is “director of research,” and what is research other than looking things up? I can get answers quickly for IIABNY members because I have some excellent research tools, and I’ve become adept at using them (nine years on the job will do that for you.)
Last winter, I got another great research tool, one that will serve me well for a long time to come. Often, a member will ask me if there are any court decisions that might bolster his position in a dispute over a claim. Sometimes I can find one, but they can be hard to find given the resources I have. Now, however, it’s a little easier, at least with regard to commercial general liability coverage. That’s because I have a terrific book by Randy Maniloff and Jeffrey Stempel titled General Liability Insurance Coverage: Key Issues in Every State (Oxford University Press, New York, trade paperback, 514 pp., $125.00.) If you underwrite or sell CGL coverage or if you adjust CGL claims, you need to have a copy of this book in your office.
Maniloff and Stempel have examined a number of CGL coverage issues, such as:
- When does the insured have a right to independent counsel?
- How do you determine how many occurrences took place?
- Is faulty workmanship an occurrence?
- What triggers coverage for latent injury and damage claims?
- Coverage for innocent co-insureds when another insured committed the harm.
- How the qualified and absolute pollution exclusions apply.
- Just how far indemnification agreements in construction contracts can go.
Each chapter has the same structure. A few pages (four to six) discussing the issue and the different approaches taken by courts, followed by a survey of statutes and/or court precedents in each of the 50 states. I of course made a beeline for the discussions of New York law after each chapter. The section on indemnification agreements quotes a provision from New York General Obligations Law Sect. 5-322.1 that prohibits indemnification for the indemnitee’s own negligence. The discussion of the duty to defend cites the New York Court of Appeals’ decision in Fitzpatrick v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. and quotes an illustrative passage from the opinion. The chapter on whether faulty workmanship is an occurrence is especially valuable given that this is a major area of dispute right now (South Carolina has actually enacted a law to answer this question.) The material is well-organized and it’s easy to find the section and state you’re looking for.
Maniloff and Stemple couldn’t cover everything in one book, and some areas of the law are still developing. Still, I would have liked to see some discussion of cyber liability issues. A review of personal and advertising injury coverage as it relates to web sites, email and social media tools would also be interesting. And, though it’s a completely separate policy, I’d like to see a review of employment practices liability issues such as disparate treatment and disparate impact claims, harassment, and wage discrimination claims.
Those are nitpicks, however. This is an excellent resource, one that I hope will see future updates as the body of case law grows. I highly encourage everyone reading this to make sure their offices have a copy.