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November 2020 Torts & Insurance Fourth Circuit Cases of Interest

January 5, 2021

Periodically, Nexsen Pruet attorney Marc Manos, a member of the SC Bar Torts and Insurance Practice Section Council, sheds light on a few recent cases from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, focused in the areas of torts & insurance. 

Below are the torts and insurance cases of interest selected for November 2020.

Flexi-Van Leasing, Inc. v. The Travelers Indem. Co.

No. 19-1847 (4th Nov. 23, 2020) (Unpublished) INSURANCE Choice of law, conflict of interest, bad faith:  Summary judgment for insurer affirmed.  By including in its pleading that the insurance covered interests located in South Carolina, Plaintiff made a judicial admission that South Carolina law applied.  Applying South Carolina law, the district court properly determined that a reservation of rights letter did not without more create a conflict of interest for insurance defense counsel.  Further, insurance defense counsel’s refusal to bring a third party claim unless insured paid for that portion of the work as insurer would not pay for work not covered by duty to defend did not create a conflict between insurer and insured.  Thus insured prematurely fired insurance defense counsel and took control of the defense and settlement breaching the policy and losing its rights for payment of the defense and settlement. Finally, as the insurers reservation based on the aircraft, auto or watercraft exclusion of the policy was reasonable as a matter of law, there could be not bad faith without other evidence of unreasonable conduct.

View case here.

Griffin v. Mortier

No. 19-7171 (4th Nov. 30, 2020) (Unpublished) PRISON INMATE SUIT, Deliberate Indifference, Medical Condition.  Order dismissing under Rule 12(b)(6) affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.  Plaintiff Griffin suffered a seizure in the prison dining facility during lunch.  He fell and hit his head causing obvious bruising and bleeding.  He became confused and unsteady. The prison nurse, Defendant Mortier, arrived on the scene, did not examine, treat or evaluate Griffin, and ordered him put in a holding cell for observation.  Griffin suffered two more seizures, again hitting his head, in the holding cell before an unidentified person called an ambulance.   A CT scan at the hospital revealed a skull fracture and brain bleed requiring surgery.  Griffin alleged permanent injuries.  The court analyzed the complaint under the two prongs necessary for a deliberate indifference claim—objective allegations of serious medical condition and subjective allegations of an indifference to the inmate’s medical condition.  The allegations met both prongs as to the nurse defendant.  The Court vacated that portion of the order dismissing the complaint and remanded.

View case here

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