Auburn Woods Homeowners Association v. State Farm General Insurance Company

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No Duty to Defend HOA and Property Manager Under Policy Liability and D&O Coverage Parts For Lawsuits Which Failed to Allege Damages and Did Not Include Property Manager as an Additional Insured

January 11, 2021
Michael Velladao - Lewis Brisbois

In Auburn Woods HOA v. State Farm Gen. Ins. Co., 56 Cal.App.5th 717 (October 28,2020) (certified for partial publication), the California Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s entry of judgment in favor of State Farm General Insurance Company (“State Farm”) regarding a lawsuit for breach of contract and bad faith brought by Auburn Woods Homeowners Association (“HOA”) and property manager, Frei Real Estate Services (“FRES”) against State Farm and the HOA’s broker, Frank Lewis. The parties’ dispute arose out of the tender of two different lawsuits filed against the HOA and FRES by Marva Beadle (“Beadle”). The first lawsuit was filed by Beadle as the owner of a condominium unit against the HOA and FRES for declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and an accounting related to amounts allegedly owed by Beadle to the HOA as association fees. The second lawsuit filed by Beadle was for the purpose of setting aside a foreclosure sale, cancelling the trustee’s deed and quieting title, and for an accounting and injunctive relief against an unlawful detainer action filed by Sutter Group, LP against Beadle. The complaint filed in the second lawsuit alleged that Allied Trustee Services caused Beadle’s property to be sold at auction and that Sutter Capital Group, LP purchased the unit and obtained a trustee’s deed upon sale. Beadle claimed the assessments against her were improper and the trustee’s deed upon sale was wrongfully executed. Beadle sought an order restoring possession of her unit and damages.

The HOA and FRES tendered both lawsuits to State Farm. As respects the first lawsuit, State Farm denied coverage of the lawsuit based on the absence of alleged “damages” covered by the policy issued to the HOA affording liability and directors and officers (“D&O”) coverages. State Farm agreed to defend the HOA under the D&O coverage in the second lawsuit. However, State Farm denied coverage of FRES in both lawsuits as it did not qualify as an insured under the State Farm policy issued to the HOA. Subsequently, the HOA and FRES filed an action against State Farm arguing that a duty to defend was triggered under its policy for the first lawsuit and a duty to defend FRES was also owed under the D&O policy for the second lawsuit. After a bench trial, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of State Farm based on the failure of the first lawsuit to allege damages covered by the State Farm policy under the liability and D&O coverages afforded by the policy. As respects the second lawsuit, the trial court held that FRES did not qualify as an insured and State Farm did not act in bad faith by refusing to pay the HOA’s alleged defense costs in the second lawsuit before it agreed to defend the HOA against such lawsuit.

Mr. Velladao may be contacted at Michael.Velladao@lewisbrisbois.com



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