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The Collaborative Clearinghouse for Lawsuits and Other Claims Against ACE Group Insurance Companies

AMERICAN STATES INSURANCE COMPANY v. ACE AMERICAN

ATTENTION: It is possible that this information may no longer be current and therefore may be inaccurate. The index contains both open and closed cases and is not a complete list of cases in which an ACE Insurance Group company is involved. This information is provided to give interested persons an idea of the issues disputed in the indexed cases. For a full understanding of a case, one should read the rest of the court file, including the response. For the most up-to-date and complete information on a case, visit www.pacer.gov or contact the clerk of the relevant court.

Case Number: 
4:12-cv-01070 Search Pacer
ACE Group party(s): 
Opposing Party: 
American States Insurance Company
Court Type: 
Federal
US District Court: 
Southern District of Texas
Date Filed: 
Apr 9 2012

"GROUNDS FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT

A. The Coverage Of The ACE Policy Is Primary.

10. Hook & Anchor had custody of and was using the vehicle involved in the accident with the express consent and permission of Chemical Weed and its principal, Darrell D. Wilson. It is also undisputed that Hook & Anchor qualified as an insured under the ACE Policy for the allegations of vicarious liability based on Jones’s negligence. Hook & Anchor is therefore an insured under both the American States and ACE policies.

11. The American States and ACE commercial auto policies contain identical “other insurance” clauses, which provide in pertinent part: For any covered “auto” you own, this Coverage Form provides primary insurance. For any covered “auto” you don’t own, the insurance provided by this Coverage Form is excess over any other collectible insurance.

When this Coverage Form and any other Coverage Form or policy covers on the same basis, either excess or primary, we will pay only our share. Our share is the\ proportion that the Limit of Insurance of our Coverage Form bears to the total of the limits of all the Coverage Forms and policies covering on the same basis. Thus, each policy provides primary coverage for vehicles owned by the named insured and excess coverage for non-owned vehicles when other collectible insurance is available. The “prorata” clause applies only if both policies provide either primary or excess coverage. See American Nat’l County Mut. Ins. Co. v. Travelers Indem. Co., 2010 WL 2541975, slip op. at *

(S.D. Tex. June 22, 2010) (“When two car-insurance policies cover the same accident, Texas courts find no conflict between one policy’s excess clause and another’s pro-rata clause. Texas courts do not equitably prorate defense costs. Instead, they respect the contracts and enforce the excess clause.”). Because ACE’s insured, Chemical Weed, owned the vehicle loaned to Hook & Anchor, ACE’s coverage is primary and American States’ coverage is excess for Hook & Anchor. As the primary carrier, ACE had a duty to defend the entire suit if any of the claims in the Underlying Suit fell within ACE’s coverage. See Zurich Am. Ins. Co. v. Nokia, Inc., 268 S.W.3d 487, 495-96 (Tex. 2008) (“The duty to defend is not negated by the inclusion of claims that are not covered; rather, it is triggered by the inclusion of claims that might be covered.”); Harken Exploration Co. v. Sphere Drake Ins., 261 F.3d 466, 474 (5th Cir. 2001); Lafarge Corp. v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co., 61 F.3d 389, 395 (5th Cir. 1995). Because its coverage is excess, American States has no duty to defend or indemnify Hook & Anchor until the limits of the ACE policy are exhausted.

B. Because ACE Has A Duty To Defend Hook & Anchor, American States Is Entitled
To Recover Its Costs Incurred In Defending Hook & Anchor.

12. As the excess carrier for Hook & Anchor, American States has a right of contractual and equitable subrogation against the primary carrier that should have assumed Hook & Anchor’s defense. See, e.g., American Centennial Ins. Co. v. Canal Ins. Co., 843 S.W.2d 480, 482 (Tex. 1992); Royal Ins. Co. of Am. v. Caliber One Indem. Co., 465 F.3d 614, 617 (5th Cir. 2006). Because ACE refused to assume the defense of Hook & Anchor, American States is also entitled to recover its attorney’s fees pursuant to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 38.001(8) as Hook & Anchor’s subrogee.

13. A claim for defense costs is a “first-party” claim for purposes of the prompt payment statute. Lamar Homes, Inc. v. Mid-Continent Cas. Co., 242 S.W.3d 1, 20 (Tex. 2007) (“the prompt-payment statute, formerly article 21.55, and now codified as sections 542.051–.061 of the Texas Insurance Code, may be applied when an insurer wrongfully refuses to promptly pay a defense benefit owed to the insured”). A prompt payment claim combines an insurer's contractual and statutory liability into one cause of action. Harris v. Am. Prot. Ins. Co., 158 S.W.3d 614, 621 (Tex. App.–Fort Worth 2005, no pet.). Because ACE breached its contract by refusing to accept the tender of Hook & Anchor’s defense, ACE is liable to American States for the 18% penalty on the defense costs American States incurred in protecting Hook & Anchor’sinterest in the Underlying Suit.

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, American States Insurance Company prays that Defendant ACE American Insurance Company be cited to appear and answer herein, and that on final hearing American States have the following judgment:

1. A declaration that ACE has primary coverage for and the duty to defend and indemnify Hook & Anchor in connection with the Underlying Suit;

2. A declaration that Plaintiff American States has excess coverage for and no duty to defend or indemnify Hook & Anchor in connection with the Underlying Suit until the limits of the ACE Policy have been exhausted by judgment or settlement;

3. An award of the defense costs American States has incurred to defend Hook & Anchor in the Underlying Suit;

4. Attorney’s fees and costs American States has incurred in asserting this declaratory and subrogation action and associated prompt payment penalties; and

5. Such other and further relief to which American States may be entitled whether at law or in equity."

The provided text is an excerpt from a document filed in this case. For a full understanding of the case, one should read the complete court file, including the response.

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