Ruling For Hanover Insurance

Our attorneys in the Chicago and Seattle offices teamed-up to secure a summary ruling in favor of Hanover Insurance on the trigger of a lawyer's professional liability policy. In the Hanover Ins. Co. v. Hurdelbrink Law Office, No C18-0651RSL (W.D. Wash. April 18, 2019; the U.S. District Court in Washington held that Hanover had no duty to defend or indemnify an attorney who—prior to the policy period—had knowledge of facts that would likely give rise to a malpractice claim in the course of representing his divorce client. The divorce proceedings were hotly-contested and the attorney and client had been sanctioned for discovery violations, failed to respond to Requests to Admit, leading to admissions on the marital status of property, and did not properly contest facts leading to "an extremely unfavorable" ruling: and, after the ruling, the client terminated the representation. These facts were known by the attorney prior to submitting a renewal application, where he answered "no" to a query whether he knew of any potential malpractice claims. The court applied an objective standard to the facts known to the attorney as opposed to a subjective belief of a possible malpractice claim. The court held that it was no defense that the attorney believed there was no merit to any claim. Rather, under an objective standard, the court found that any reasonable attorney would foresee a malpractice claim even if he or she had hopes that no such claim would be made.

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