September 19, 2013
The following is our summary of the Supreme Court’s actions on petitions for review in civil cases from the Court’s conference on Wednesday, September 18, 2013. The summary includes those civil cases in which (1) review has been granted, (2) review has been denied but one or more justices has voted for review, or (3) the Court has ordered depublished an opinion of the Court of Appeal.
Hartford Casualty Insurance v. J.R. Marketing, S211645—Review Granted—September 18, 2013
The case presents the following issue: Do the principles articulated in Buss v. Superior Court (1997) 16 Cal.4th 35 and the established common-law remedies for money wrongfully received give an insurer a common-law, quasi-contractual right to maintain a direct action against Cumis counsel for reimbursement of unreasonable and unnecessary defense fees and costs?
Seeking a defense, two insureds tendered three related actions to their insurer and then sued the insurer. The trial court ordered the insurer to provide independent Cumis counsel and pay defense fees and costs. The insurer was permitted to challenge unreasonable and unnecessary defense fees and costs only through an action for reimbursement, which it filed against Cumis counsel after the underlying actions were resolved. The trial court dismissed the insurer’s action, concluding it could seek reimbursement of excessive defense costs only from its insured.
The Court of Appeal, First District, Division Three, affirmed. In a published opinion, J.R. Marketing, L.L.C. v. Hartford Casualty Insurance Company (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 1444, it held that an insurer does not have a quasi-contractual right rooted in common law to maintain a direct suit against independent Cumis counsel for “reimbursement of excessive or otherwise improperly-invoiced defense fees and costs.” [Full-disclosure: Horvitz & Levy LLP represents petitioner Hartford Casualty Insurance Company in this case.]
Review Denied (with dissenting justices)