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Ruling in favor of Hartford in dispute with law firm affirmed


A federal appeals court Tuesday affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of a Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. unit, holding that a privacy exclusion applied in a coverage dispute with a personal injury law firm.

In 2016, Milwaukee-based Davis & Gelshenen LLP was among defendants named in a putative class action filed by drivers who had been involved in automobile accidents in North Carolina, according to the ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, in Hartford Casualty Insurance Co. v. Davis & Gelshenen LLP; John J. Gelshenen, Jr.

The lawsuit alleged defendants had violated the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act by obtaining without consent their names and addresses from official accident reports submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles and using that information to mail advertisements for legal services to the plaintiffs.

Hartford unit Hartford Casualty, which had issued liability policies to the law firm between 2011 and 2017, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, North Carolina, seeking a declaratory judgment it had no duty to defend or indemnify the law firm in the litigation because of two policy exclusions: one that excluded coverage for personal and advertising injury arising out of the violation of any individual’s right to privacy, and a second that excluded coverage for personal and advertising injury.

The district court ruled the litigation fell “squarely within both exclusions,” said a three-judge appeals court panel, which cited the coverage’s privacy exclusion in affirming the lower court. A footnote states because the privacy exclusion applies, the panel need not consider the communications exclusion. The ruling states also it had ruled similarly in a related case.

Attorneys in the case could not be reached, or were not prepared to comment.

A federal court ruled in August that Hartford Casualty and another Hartford unit, Hartford Fire Insurance Co., did not have a duty to defend or indemnify a spandex supplier that was being sued for copyright infringement by a stretch fabric wholesaler.







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