The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Decision in Evanston Ins. Co. v. Certified Steel Stud Association, 2019 WL 4674072 (6th Cir. Sept. 25, 2019) is another reminder to insurers of the difficulty in prevailing on a “dishonest acts” exclusion to bar coverage. The decision, however, does provide some useful insight and a framework for analyzing “dishonest acts” or “intentional acts” exclusions which are common in most insurance policies.
In Certified Steel, ClarkDietrich, a producer of steel products, sued CSSA, a trade association composed of three competitors to ClarkDietrich, in Ohio state court alleging they disseminated false statements about ClarkDietrich and its products. ClarkDietrich claimed that CSSA and its members: (1) violated the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ODTPA), (2) engaged in unfair competition, and committed (3) defamation and (4) commercial disparagement. ClarkDietrich also claimed that CSSA and its members committed the unlawful acts as part of a civil conspiracy.