Federal Court Dismisses Coverage Action in Favor of Pending State Proceeding

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Attorney Tred R. Eyerly analyzes Navigators Ins, Co. v. Chriso's Tree Trimming.

October 12, 2020
Tred R. Eyerly - Insurance Law Hawaii

The federal district court declined to exercise jurisdiction over the coverage action that was parallel to a case pending in state court involving the same parties and same issues pending. Navigators Ins, Co. v. Chriso's Tree Trimming, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129711 (E.D. Calif. July 22, 2020).

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) entered into a tree, brush and wood removal contract with Mount F Enterprises, Inc. Mountain F subsequently entered into a subcontractor agreement with Chriso Tree Trimming, Inc. for work to be performed for PG&E. In August 2017, Chriso attempted to remove a tree, but the tree accidentally fell in the wrong direction and knocked down nearby powerlines. The powerlines came into contact with surrounding brush and started the "Railroad Fire." The fire was eventually contained on September 15, 2017, after 12, 407 acres were burned and 7 structures and 7 homes were destroyed.

Five subrogation lawsuits were filed in state court against Chriso and Mountain F by various insurance companies that paid for the damage caused by the Railroad Fire. A policy limits demand to settle all claims against Chriso and Mountain F was made. Navigators insured Chriso for $9 million through a Commercial Excess Liability Policy, payable once all other insurance was exhausted. The policy included a "Professional Services Endorsement" (PSE Exclusion) that excluded coverage of "professional services." "Professional services" was defined through a list of 12 non-exclusive professions and services that generally referred to activities involving specialized knowledge or skill that was predominantly mental or intellectual in nature rather than physical or manual.

Mr. Eyerly may be contacted at te@hawaiilawyer.com


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