by Daniel McGregor, 2L Note Candidate Enrollment at the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law […]
by Kelsey Dilday, 2L Note Candidate Justice Brent E. Dickson of the Indiana Supreme Court retired on April […]
The ability of a policyholder to recover pre-tender costs is an evolving area of insurance coverage law. In Dreaded, Inc. v. St. Paul Guardian Insurance Company, the Indiana Supreme Court held that, under the facts of that case, a policyholder could not recover the legal expenses it incurred defending itself from a claim asserted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (“IDEM”) prior to giving notice of or tendering the claim to its insurer. . And while Dreaded was limited to the facts of that case, the Indiana Court of Appeals in Travelers Insurance Company v. Maplehurst Farms, Inc. interpreted Dreaded to mean that pre-tender costs are simply not recoverable. . The courts’ decisions in Dreaded and Maplehurst rested, in part, on two grounds: (1) an insurer’s duty to defend its policyholder does not arise until the policyholder provides notice of the claim;  and (2) the insurance policy provision requiring a policyholder to give notice of a claim to the insurer is a condition precedent to coverage. .
Indiana courts should reconsider the holdings in Dreaded and Maplehurst. . These holdings result in the forfeiture of coverage, which is unfair and disfavored under Indiana law,  and ignore the realities of long-tail environmental claims. . To begin, Dreaded’s explanation of the duty to defend is incomplete. An insurer’s duty to defend its policyholder is not triggered by notice of the claim, but rather by the existence of a potentially covered claim. .
On November 14, 2014, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a $1.44 million jury verdict against Walgreen Company (“Walgreen”) for a pharmacist’s breach of privacy obligations. . The opinion began, “[i]n this case, a pharmacist breached one of her most sacred duties by viewing the prescription records of a customer and divulging the information she learned from those records to the client’s ex-boyfriend.” . That brief summary of the case’s fact pattern provides the foundation of what ultimately led to a large jury verdict against Walgreen, derived solely from the acts of its employee.
John P. Higgins, attorney
Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission
The Rules of Professional Conduct provide the baseline standards by which all lawyers must conduct themselves, both in their professional and (sometimes) personal lives. Violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct may serve as a basis for professional discipline, ranging anywhere from a private admonishment to permanent disbarment.