Business Owners And Their Legal Entity

Insurance attorneys, when looking at an insurance policy, want to know who is covered under the policy. You have the named insured and then you have those who are assumed to be covered under the policy. What about a situation where a business changes it’s legal status by incorporating or becoming a partnership rather than what it was when the policy originated? The answer may depend on the state you are in.
Justia US Law circulated a story dealing with this issue. It is from a U.S. Tenth Circuit opinion in a opinion styled, Christy v. Travelers Indemnity.
Plaintiff-Appellant Corey Christy purchased a commercial general-liability insurance policy from Travelers in the name of his sole proprietorship, K&D Oilfield Supply. Subsequently, Christy registered his business as a corporation under the name K&D Oilfield Supply, Inc. Christy renewed his CGL Policy annually, but did not notify Travelers that he had incorporated his business. After Christy formed K&D, Inc., he was in an accident and made a claim under the CGL Policy. Travelers denied coverage based on Christy’s failure to inform it of the change in business form, and Christy filed this action. On cross motions for summary judgment, the district court found in favor of Travelers. Because there was a material factual dispute as to whether Christy knew or should have known Travelers would have considered the formation of K&D, Inc. material to its decision to renew the Policy, summary judgment based on Christy’s legal duty to speak was inappropriate. And because the existence of a legal duty governs whether Christy engaged in a material misrepresentation by not informing Travelers he had formed K&D, Inc., the Tenth Circuit held the district court erred in reforming the Policy on that basis at this stage of the proceedings. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. But because Christy had not met his burden to come forward with evidence in support of his claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on that claim.

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