BITCO Gen Ins v. Monroe Guar Ins
Opinion Date: April 12, 2022
Areas of Law: Contracts, Insurance Law
BITCO General Insurance Corporation (“BITCO”) and Monroe Guaranty Insurance Company (“Monroe”) issued general liability insurance policies to 5D Drilling & Pump Service Inc. (“5D”). A property owner sued 5D for breach of contract and negligence. BITCO sought a declaratory judgment that Monroe also owed a duty to defend 5D.
The parties dispute whether any “property damage” alleged could have occurred during Monroe’s policy period. The magistrate found that damage must have occurred during a period when Monroe’s policy was in force.
The court reasoned that under Texas law, courts determine whether an insurer’s duty to defend has been triggered by using the “eight corners” rule. The party seeking coverage has the initial burden of establishing that the underlying claims potentially state a cause of action. When pleadings in the underlying lawsuit have been amended, the court analyzes the duty to defend by examining the “latest, and only the latest, amended pleadings.”
Typically, the eight-corners rule prevents courts from considering any extrinsic evidence. Texas law recognizes a limited exception to the eight-corners rule when it is impossible to discern whether coverage is potentially implicated and when the extrinsic evidence goes solely to a fundamental issue of coverage.
Monroe contends that even if the owner’s pleading alleges damage within its policy period, it still has no duty to defend because all the damage falls within policy exclusions. The court found that Monroe cannot carry its burden because it cannot show that either exception unambiguously applies. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s order.
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