News

Fishkin Lucks Wins Summary Judgment in New York Life Insurance Litigation

Fishkin Lucks won a complete victory today for its client, a life insurance company, in a litigation concerning two lapsed $5 million life insurance policies that had been owned by a trust. The lawsuit, brought in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, was actually the second litigation between the parties concerning the same policies. In the first litigation, the court had ordered that the trust did not need to pay premiums that came due while that action was pending. Once that first lawsuit was resolved,however, the trust never paid the hundreds of thousands of back premiums that it owed. After giving the trust every opportunity to cure its failure to pay, the life insurance company canceled the policies for non-payment.The trust then brought an action for declaratory judgment, arguing that it was not obligated to pay those back premiums but should still be entitled to keep the policies in effect. It also sought a setoff for amounts it paid to a different life insurance company to obtain replacement coverage during the pendency of the first action. On behalf of its client, the Firm counterclaimed for a declaratory judgment that the policies had lapsed due to non-payment. The parties submitted competing motions for summary judgment. Adopting in full the arguments the Firm had advanced, the court denied the trust’s motion and granted the life insurance company’s motion,finding that the policies had lapsed for non-payment and that the trust was not entitled to any setoff for its replacement coverage. As a result, the action was dismissed in its entirety and the Firm’s client is no longer obligated to provide coverage under the lapsed policies.

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Fishkin Lucks Wins Partial Summary Judgment on Novel Environmental Coverage Issue

The Firm prevailed on a motion for partial summary judgment today in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, when the Court entered a declaration that its insurance carrier client had no duty to cover the plaintiff-insured’s claim for costs associated with a sub-slab vapor mitigation system it installed to remove harmful vapors from a warehouse building located on a site undergoing environmental remediation. The issue was a matter of first impression, as the parties’ research revealed no reported cases in the United States that addressed whether costs to remediate indoor air fall under the “owned property” exclusion contained in standard Commercial General Liability policies. Plaintiff had argued that the exclusion should not bar these costs because indoor air is not “owned” by the landowner, instead falling under the state’s parens patriae protection. However, the Court agreed with the Firm that the “owned property” exclusion bars costs to cleanup an insured’s own property that have nothing to do with remediating third-party property; and here, the insured remediated its indoor air, not to remediate damage to third-party property, but solely to prevent harm to the building’s occupants.  A copy of the Court’s order can be found here.

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Fishkin Lucks Wins in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

Fishkin Lucks scored a complete victory today in a construction defect case brought in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, Montgomery County, when plaintiffs withdrew their opposition to the Firm’s motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of its client, a leading manufacturer of flexible exterior wall systems. Plaintiffs brought claims against more than a dozen parties, alleging property damage and personal injuries due to water infiltration at their home. Plaintiffs attributed the water infiltration, in part, to defects in a stucco system allegedly manufactured and supplied by the Firm’s client. Following the completion of discovery, the Firm argued that the record evidence was insufficient to establish that our client’s stucco system had been installed on plaintiffs’ home or was a proximate cause of plaintiffs’ alleged damages and that, in any event, summary judgment was also appropriate solely on account of plaintiffs’ intentional spoliation of critical evidence. Plaintiffs withdrew their opposition to the motion after they received the Firm’s reply papers in further support of the motion, in which the Firm demonstrated that their opposition was based on misrepresentations, unsupported arguments and baseless allegations, and completely failed to challenge the substantial prejudice our client sustained due to plaintiffs’ spoliation of evidence, which prejudice we carefully detailed for the Court through expert testimony presented in the Firm’s moving papers. Following the withdrawal, the Court awarded our client summary judgment not only against plaintiffs’ claims, but against each co-defendant’s cross-claims.

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Fishkin Lucks Defeats Remand in District of Maryland

Taking lead for a group of more than fifteen defendants, the Firm today defeated a motion to remand a significant toxic tort action from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The Firm properly removed the case on behalf of its clients, a large independent energy exploration and production company and a global specialty chemicals company, even though plaintiff is a Maryland citizen and one of the named corporate defendants was alleged to be a Maryland corporation, arguing that the Maryland corporation had been dissolved and wound up for twelve years, was not subject to suit and had been fraudulently joined in an effort to defeat diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff moved to remand, citing the high hurdle defendants face in demonstrating fraudulent joinder and speculating that the former Maryland corporation might not be fully wound up (and thus, was subject to suit) based on the possibility that it maintained insurance that covered plaintiff’s claims. On behalf of its clients and the other named defendants, the Firm opposed remand. The Firm not only obtained sworn testimony from former directors of the dissolved Maryland corporation stating that the corporation completed winding up twelve years earlier and had no known insurance policies to satisfy plaintiff’s claims, but cited case authorities holding that plaintiff’s mere speculation as to the existence of insurance was not sufficient to demonstrate that the former Maryland corporation was still in the process of winding up. In a well-written decision, the U.S. District Court (Russell, D.J.) agreed with the Firm’s arguments and denied remand to the notoriously plaintiff-friendly venue in Baltimore City. A copy of the Court’s decision can be found here.

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Zack Silverman Elevated to Partner

Fishkin Lucks LLP is pleased to announce the elevation to Partner of Zachary W. Silverman, effective January 1, 2019. Zack is a commercial litigator who has consistently been recognized by his peers and clients as a result-driven, creative and pragmatic advocate. “Zack’s elevation to Partner is a significant milestone that could not be more well-deserved,” said Firm co-founder, Andy Fishkin. Added co-founder Steve Lucks, “Zack is a significant contributor to everything we do and his admittance to the partnership makes our Firm that much stronger.” Zack earned his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and his B.A., magna cum laude, from Duke University. He joined the Firm as a Counsel in April 2015, after spending over 7 years at two AmLaw 100 law firms.

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Fishkin Lucks Wins Bench Trial in New Jersey

The Firm prevailed today in a bench trial in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Hudson County (Costello, J.) on behalf our client, an international chemical distributor, in a dispute concerning the shipment and storage of various chemical products. Following extensive cross-examination of the plaintiff, during which we established that a prior agreement between the parties precluded any payments under the contracts at issue, the Court granted the Firm’s motion for directed verdict and dismissed the case in its entirety.

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