Appeals Court Grants Relief to Riddell in Coverage Action

Sep 1, 2017

A California state appeals court has reversed a trial court and found that a group of insurance companies are not entitled to certain discovery from Riddell, Inc. and other football helmet manufacturers (Riddell) since it could unfairly expose Riddell in related litigation.
Specifically, Riddell is being sued by numerous former professional football players, who allege personal injuries resulting from their use of Riddell football helmets. The plaintiffs allege causes of action for negligence and strict products liability based on defective design and failure to warn.
In the aftermath of that lawsuit, Riddell sued the insurance companies (collectively the Insurers). The operative first amended complaint alleges claims for declaratory relief, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Riddell alleges that the Insurers issued primary and excess liability insurance policies to Riddell, including coverage for commercial general liability and products liability. Riddell further alleges that the Insurers have a duty to defend the third-party actions and indemnify Riddell for any losses suffered. According to Riddell, some of the Insurers have agreed to provide a defense but others have not, and none of the Insurers has agreed to indemnify Riddell.
After Riddell sued the insurance companies, the Insurers filed a discovery request seeking information relating to prior claims against Riddell, such as which model of Riddell helmet each of the plaintiffs in the third-party actions wore, and the dates of use. Dissatisfied with Riddell’s responses to some of the discovery requests, the Insurers moved to compel further responses, including privilege logs of documents Riddell had withheld in discovery responses that had already been provided. Riddell moved for a protective order staying the discovery at issue. The trial court granted the motions to compel and denied the motion for a protective order. Riddell filed the instant petition for a writ of mandate challenging those rulings with respect to some of the discovery requests.
The appeals courts sided with Riddell, for the most part.
“We agree with Riddell that the discovery at issue is logically related to factual issues in the third-party actions and that a stay of that discovery is therefore appropriate,” it wrote. “We agree with the Insurers, however, that Riddell must provide privilege logs of documents withheld in document productions that have already occurred. We accordingly grant the petition and direct the trial court to vacate its order on the Insurers’ motions to compel and enter a new order granting the motions as to the privilege logs only. We also direct the trial court to grant Riddell’s request for a stay of the discovery at issue.”
The Insurers involved in the litigation are Ace American Insurance Company, Allianz Underwriters Insurance Co., American Home Assurance Co., Arrowood Indemnity Company, Aspen Specialty Insurance Co., Associated International Insurance Co., Century Indemnity Company, Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London and Certain London Market Insurance Companies, Chartis Specialty Insurance Co., Columbia Casualty Company, Continental Insurance Co., Employers’ Fire Insurance Company, First Specialty Insurance Corporation, First State Insurance Company, Illinois National Insurance Co., Insurance Company of North America, Mt. McKinley Insurance Co., National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa., New England Reinsurance Co., OneBeacon Insurance Co., Pacific Employers Insurance Co., Transcontinental Insurance Co., Transport Indemnity Company, Twin City Fire Insurance Co., Westchester Fire Insurance Co., and Westport Insurance Corp.
Riddell, INC. et al., Petitioner v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Respondent; Ace American Insurance Company et al., Real Parties in Interest; Ct. App. Calif.., 2d App. Dist., Div. 7; B275482, 2017 Cal. App. LEXIS 724; 8/23/17
Attorneys of Record: (for Petitioners) Covington & Burling, David B. Goodwin, Gretchen A. Hoff Varner, Reynold L. Siemens and Jeffrey A. Kiburtz. No appearance for Respondent. (for Real Parties in Interest) Duane Morris, Ray L. Wong, Amanda Graham; Nicolaides Fink Thorpe Michaelides Sullivan, Sara M. Thorpe, Jeffrey N. Labovitch; Duplicki Keller, George J. Keller and Jeffrey E. Duplicki.


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