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State National Insurance Company v. the County of Camden

December 19, 2012

STATE NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE COUNTY OF CAMDEN, DEFENDANTS. THE COUNTY OF CAMDEN, COUNTERCLAIMANT AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, COUNTERCLAIM-DEFENDANT AND NICHOLAS M. ANDERSON, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT, AND SCIBAL ASSOCIATES, INC., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT AND THIRD-PARTY COUNTERCLAIMANT. THE INSURANCE COMPANY OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, INTERVENING PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE COUNTY OF CAMDEN AND SCIBAL ASSOCIATES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

This matter concerns which entity is liable to pay for a multi-million dollar state court jury verdict in favor of a plaintiff who sued the County of Camden, New Jersey for injuries he sustained when he drove off the road and into a guardrail owned and maintained by the County. Presently before the Court is the issue of which party must first produce its expert reports. The parties have agreed that the order of expert disclosure should follow the burden of proof, with the party bearing the burden on a claim to first disclose its witnesses offering opinion testimony, followed by the non-burdened party's disclosure of its opinion witnesses. The parties have also agreed as to which party has the burden of proof on all claims, except for the determination as to whether the County provided an adequate defense and investigation of the underlying Anderson litigation. This issue is a dispositive factor in whether the State National insurance policy with the County is implicated.

The State National Policy provides $10 million in coverage over a $300,000 self-insured retention. The State National Policy states:

We [State National] will pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of "bodily injury" or "property damage" to which this insurance applies. We [State National] will have the right and duty to defend any "suit" seeking those damages.

The Self-Insured Retention Endorsement ("SIR Endorsement") states, in relevant part:

1. In consideration of the premium charged and as a condition to the issuance and continuation of the Policy, it is agreed that the NAMED INSURED shall retain, as a self-insured retention, per occurrence and as respects combined insured damages and insured allocated costs and expenses of investigation, defense, negotiation and settlement applicable to such damages, the sum of [$300,000.00]. The company's limit of liability, as stated elsewhere in the Policy, shall apply solely in excess of the NAMED INSURED'S self-insured retention. Allocated costs and expenses of investigation, defense, negotiation and settlement shall not include any costs or expenses of any:

A. claims management or service company of any INSURED, or

B. wages or salaries of any employee of any INSURED, or

C. operating expenses of any INSURED. * * *

4. In the event of any occurrence which, in the opinion of any INSURED, is likely to give rise to liability under this Policy, no costs or expenses, other than for immediate first aid to others, shall be incurred by any INSURED, except at his or her own cost, peril and expense, without the written consent of the company. The NAMED INSURED shall be obligated to

A. provide an adequate defense and investigation of any action for or notice of any actual, potential or alleged damages, and

B. accept any reasonable offer or settlement within the NAMED INSURED'S self-insured retention, and, in the event of any NAMED INSURED'S failure to comply with any part of this paragraph, the company shall not be liable for any damages or costs or expenses resulting from any such occurrence.

5. The company may, at its sole option, pay, as damages, costs and expenses, any part or all of the NAMED INSURED'S self-insured retention in order to effect settlement of any and all actions against any INSURED and, upon notice to any NAMED INSURED of the company having done so, the NAMED INSURED shall, within ten (10) calendar days of sending of such notice, fully reimburse the company.

State National argues that it is the County's burden to demonstrate that as a condition precedent to coverage it met its obligation to provide an adequate defense and investigation. In contrast, the County argues that it is State National's burden to demonstrate that the County did not provide an ...


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