Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Estate of Chee, No. 15-3243 (7th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Sam was driving; his wife, Toni, was a passenger when their car slammed into a tree. Toni was injured and died within a week. Her estate sued Sam, claiming negligent driving, and sued the hospital and physicians, alleging malpractice. The medical defendants filed third-party actions against Sam, seeking contribution should they be held liable. State Farm is defending Sam in both suits, under a policy with indemnity of $250,000 per person ($500,000 total) for auto accidents. State Farm has offered to pay policy limits; its offer has not been accepted because of a dispute about the terms of the release. The couple had a Cincinnati Insurance excess policy ($5 million). Cincinnati unsuccessfully sought a declaratory judgment that its policy does not apply. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that Cincinnati must defend Sam in the suit between the estate and the medical defendants. The court found no prejudicial delay in notifying the company; rejected an argument that Cincinnati had no duty to defend because of State Farm’s failure to pay; and rejected Cincinnati’s argument that its policy does not apply because both Sam and Toni are insureds. The court cited the exclusion’s exception: “[w]hen a third party acquires a right of contribution against you or any relative.” Neither defense nor indemnity is appropriate in the estate’s suit against Sam.