No Coverage for Lawsuit Served on Insured’s Registered Agent Prior to Policy Inception

In a win for Wiley’s client, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, applying District of Columbia law, affirmed judgment on the pleadings that no coverage is available for a lawsuit because the “claim” was first made before the inception date of the policy when the lawsuit was served on the insured’s registered agent. DC Capital Law Firm, LLP v. The Hanover Ins. Co., 2023 WL 8015691 (11th Cir. Nov. 20, 2023).

The insurer issued a lawyers professional liability policy to a law firm for the December 21, 2018 to December 21, 2019 policy period, providing coverage for “claims” “first made against the insured during the Policy Period,” where the definition of “claim” included a “civil proceeding commenced by the service of a complaint or similar pleading.” The law firm was served with a summons and complaint via its registered agent on December 19, 2018, prior to the policy period. The insurer denied coverage because the claim was not first made during the policy period. The insured sued the insurer, arguing that coverage was available because it first learned of the lawsuit after the policy’s inception date. The insurer moved for judgment on the pleadings. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted judgment for the insurer.

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed judgment on the pleadings for the insurer. The court concluded that “the Policy explains that when the service of process of a civil proceeding occurred on [the insured’s] registered agent, then a claim was first made on [the insured]. Because service of process occurred on December 19, 2018, the claim was first made on that date. As a result, the claim was made two days before the start of the Policy Period and falls outside the Policy’s coverage.”

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