Related claims filed in separate policy periods considered a single claim

by Chris Graham and Joseph Kelly

Bar Plan Mutual Insurance Company, Case No. ED98826 (MO Court of Appeals April 23, 2013)

Grant of summary judgment to professional liability insurer affirmed on appeal. Insurer filed a declaratory action seeking a judgment that a breach of fiduciary duty claim filed against Insured during the 2009 policy period was related to legal malpractice claims filed against Insured during the 2008 policy period, and, thus, only the 2008 policy applied.

The legal malpractice claims filed in the 2008 policy period arose from an $11 million real estate deal gone bad. The breach of fiduciary duty claim filed in 2009 policy period was for Insured’s failure to disclose to its client that it only had $250,000 of insurance coverage. The 2008 and 2009 policies contained “an explicitly-stated non-exhaustive list of ‘a series of related acts or omissions that constitute a single Claim under the Policy where a single Limit of Liability will apply[.]’ This list includes ‘[a]ll activities pertaining to a real estate transaction[.]’”. While “related” was not defined in either policy, the court found that “related” was not ambiguous, the breach of fiduciary duty claim was related the initial legal malpractice claims, and, thus, only the 2008 policy applied.

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