Title Industry Assurance Co., R.R.G. v. First American Title Insurance Co., No. 15-3310 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
In 2008, Chicago Abstract was sued in state court by a title insurance company and financial firms. Chicago Abstract tendered these lawsuits to its “errors and omissions” liability insurer, TIAC. TIAC could defend without reservation; defend while reserving its rights; seek a declaratory judgment concerning the scope of coverage; or decline to defend. Under Illinois law, when a liability insurer unjustifiably refuses to defend, the insurer is estopped from later asserting policy defenses to coverage. TIAC declined to defend. Years passed without further communications between TIAC and its insured. In 2014, a state court plaintiff filed an amended complaint. An attorney appointed by TIAC made an appearance in that case. TIAC then sought a declaration that coverage was unavailable based on policy exclusions. Chicago Abstract did not defend; the company had been involuntarily dissolved. Plaintiffs from the state-court litigation against Chicago Abstract appeared in the federal case as defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of those defendants. The undisputed facts show that TIAC breached its duty to defend in the underlying litigation and is estopped from asserting “at this very late stage” any policy defenses to coverage that might have been available if TIAC had made a different choice when the complaints were first tendered.