Legal Roundup: Google Sued for Tracking Users, Baseball Teams Sue Over COVID-19 Response and More

The latest court decisions involving risk management and the insurance industry.
By: | July 19, 2020

Indianapolis Archdiocese Failed to Disclose Sex Abuse Allegations, Insurer Claims 

The Case: Underwriters for Lloyd’s of London have sued the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, claiming the organization failed to disclose sex abuse allegations before securing liability insurance.

The insurer is asking that the policy be voided. The case centers around Rev. David J. Marcotte, who was arrested for sexual abuse charges in 2019.

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The Indianapolis Star reports: “According to the lawsuit, the child’s father notified an Archdiocese victim assistance coordinator on Feb, 13, 2019, that he intended to sue. Months later, the Archdiocese applied for the insurance policy. As part of the application, the Archdiocese was asked whether it was aware of any ‘facts, circumstances, or allegations that may result in claims being made against you.’ The Archdiocese answered ‘no.’ ”  

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution. A representative for the Archdiocese told the Indianapolis Star he could not comment until the lawsuit was examined.

Takeaway: Underwriters make insurance decisions based on up-to-date information. Non-disclosure of information only compounds problems by potentially invalidating coverage and leading to legal disputes. 

Trucker Denied $2.6 Million Judgement Because Other Party Left Country 

The Case: Zef Ljajcaj suffered head, back and shoulder injuries during a 2016 tractor-trailer crash. During the ensuing litigation, the other truck driver, Nurbek Aiazbekov, fled the country. That led to a $2.6 million default judgment for Ljajcaj. (He also received a $500,000 settlement with Aiazbekov’s employer Road Carriers.)

But insurance carrier National Continental “claimed that the insurance company was not obligated to defend or indemnify Aiazbekov in the state court case,” because he left the country, according to Land Line Media.

“By fleeing the country, the insurance company claims Aiazbekov breached the contract by not cooperating in the defense,” the site wrote.  

Scorecard: A district court ruled that National Continental was not responsible for paying Ljajcaj the $2.6 million. In mid-July an appeals court agreed and denied Ljajcaj the award.  

Takeaway: This case demonstrates that insurers cannot rectify situations if the parties involved do not cooperate. Again, close review of policy language is imperative. National Continental fulfilled its obligation to Road Carriers by covering the $500,000 settlement, but has no further obligation to atone for the actions of a a rogue employee under the terms of its contract. 

Google Sued for Allegedly Tracking Users Even If They Opt Out 

The Case: A group of consumers has sued Google for tracking them on a variety of different apps — even though they followed Google’s recommended settings to stop monitoring.

Reuters explained that Google has been accused of violating federal wiretap law and California privacy law by logging what users are looking at in news, ride-hailing and other types of apps, despite the users having turned off ‘Web & App Activity’ tracking in their Google account settings.

The suit alleges that Google “nevertheless continues to intercept consumers’ app usage and app browsing communications and personal information,” Reuters said.  

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution. Google did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment. 

Takeaway: Tech users are demanding more privacy online. They’re getting savvy about keeping social media information private and expect easy ways to opt-out of allowing tech companies to track their online behavior. Expect backlash if users feel that their privacy is being violated. 

Minor League Baseball Teams Sue Government Over Virus Response 

The Case: The cancellation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season was a devastating blow to an already struggling industry. While Major League Baseball has thrived with hundred-million dollar salaries and billion-dollar TV contracts, the minors survived on in-person ticket and concession sales.

Now, a group of 15 Minor League Baseball teams have sued five insurance companies over business interruption. They claim the state and federal government officials bungled the COVID-19 response and put their businesses in financial peril.

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ESPN reports: “The complaint accuses the insurance companies of breach of contract and asserts that teams are not precluded from collecting on business interruption claims, despite policy provisions excluding losses ’caused by or resulting from any virus’ and ‘acts or decisions, including the failure to act or decide, of any person, group, organization or governmental body.’ “ 

Scorecard: The case was just recently filed and has not yet come to a resolution. 

Takeaway: Business interruption claims are rolling in amid COVID-19 shutdowns. The burden will be on the plaintiffs to prove their policy applies, but insurers best be prepared for lots of litigation and associated expenses regardless. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]