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Failure to Defend Results

Representative Cases Involving a Failure to Defend When the Insurer Had a Duty to Defend

Following are examples of actual verdicts and settlements obtained by Pillsbury & Coleman in cases involving failure to defend a policyholder. Additional results can be reviewed when you speak with an attorney at our firm. If plaintiff or insurance company names do not appear it is because confidentiality agreements are in place restricting that information.

Gordon Vann V. Travelers Insurance Co.

Case Issue

Refusal to defend insured


Won at trial $25 million in punitive damages; upheld on appeal.


Gordon Vann was the former owner of an auto repair shop in Oakland, California. He had operated his repair shop in the same location for approximately 30 years. Following the death of his landlord, Mr. Vann was asked to vacate the premises. He was then sued for allegedly causing environmental damage to the premises.

Mr. Vann asked his insurance company to defend him. Rather than doing so, Travelers first denied that he had a policy. Then after admitting that he had a policy, it inundated him with burdensome and harassing requests for information. Mr. Vann was nearly 70 years old at the time and unable to respond to these inquiries. Travelers again improperly claimed that Mr. Vann didn't have any insurance coverage and refused to hire an attorney to defend him. Mr. Vann was left to defend the case on his own. An attorney agreed to help Mr. Vann defend himself but he was unable to afford an adequate defense.

Mr. Pillsbury proved at trial that Travelers had adopted a manner of handling environmental claims that was intended to deprive individuals such as Mr. Vann of insurance protection. The jury found that Travelers had acted in bad faith and that it had treated Mr. Vann with malice, fraud and oppression. It awarded Mr. Vann $26.5 million. Travelers unsuccessfully appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

Construction Subcontractor v. Insurance Company

Case Issues

Insurance bad faith claim, failure to defend


Settlement in favor of plaintiff


Our client, a construction subcontractor was sued by a homeowner, along with the general contractor, for negligence after a fire occurred at a home where the subcontractor had been working.

Despite the fact that the general contractor's insurer was obligated to fund a legal defense for the employees of the general contractor, including our client, it refused to defend our client. He tried to fund his own defense but quickly ran out of money. To make matters worse, the insurer continued to thwart his efforts to settle with the homeowner so that the general contractor it was defending could pin the fire on him.

Our client hired Pillsbury & Coleman, LLP, after losing his money, his health insurance, and his marriage. The matter was settled shortly after a bad faith lawsuit was filed.

Manufacturing Company v. Federal Insurance Company

Case Issue

Insurance company refused to defend its insured; breach of contract


Won on Summary Judgment


Our client, a manufacturing company, sought defense services against a claim by former executive employees for lifetime health care benefits under a fiduciary liability policy. When its claim was denied, the company was forced to defend itself at its own cost in arbitration proceedings.

Pillsbury & Coleman sued the insurer for breach of the policy and for bad faith. The case then settled for the entire sum of the arbitration defense plus interest, as well as a portion of the fees incurred in bringing the coverage action.

California Law Firm v. Insurance Company

Case Issue

Insurer refused to defend insured law firm against malpractice suit and rescinded law firm's policy; our client sued for breach of duty to defend and bad faith.


Insurer reinstated policy and made partial payment towards settlement of malpractice suit.


Insurance company rescinded client's professional errors and omissions policy stating that the client had made a material misrepresentation on its policy application about a potential claim. Our client, a small law firm in Southern California, was hit with a malpractice lawsuit. After the firm tendered the claim, the insurance company rescinded its policy, refused to defend the claim and sued the firm for declaratory relief. We resolved the malpractice suit by convincing the insurance company to pay towards a settlement and persuaded the insurance company to withdraw its rescission of the policy.

Tough Negotiators, Passionate Litigators

To discuss your insurance-related concern, contact Pillsbury & Coleman, LLP. From our law offices in San Francisco, we represent clients throughout California and across the nation.