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February 2011

San Francisco Team Obtains Affirmance of Summary Judgment in Insurance Coverage Dispute

Partner Arthur Schwartz, assisted by Partner Don Willenburg and Senior Counsel Leslie Crary, obtained an affirmance in California's First District Court of Appeal of a summary judgment that Art Schwartz, Doug Scullion and Olivia Bradbury previously won on a multi-million dollar coverage dispute. The plaintiff, a police officer, suffered catastrophic injuries when he was struck by a drunk driver. He alleged a restaurant had allowed the driver, one of its employees, to drink on the job. 

The two client insurers issued primary and excess policies to the restaurant that provided $2 million in liability coverage. Because plaintiff disputed the limits available, Art negotiated a settlement in which the insurers paid the $2 million limits in exchange for a release of the insured but that allowed plaintiff to sue the insurers to try to prove more coverage.

Plaintiff sued the insurers for declaratory relief in San Francisco Superior Court alleging the insurers owed $9 million in coverage. Plaintiff alleged the policies provided $3 million in coverage for the year the accident occurred because a prior limit reduction was ineffective. Plaintiff based this argument, in part, on the theory the insured  had not signed  the change request form. Plaintiff also argued for an extension of the Montrose doctrine asserting that successive policy years applied on the theory his injuries were "continuous or progressive." The trial court agreed with the insurers, granting them summary judgment. The Court of Appeal affirmed February 2, 2011 in a 34-page unpublished opinion.

Arthur Schwartz
Don Willenburg



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