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Friday, April 12, 2024

Colorado Supreme Courtroom: Late Discover, No Prejudice, No Downside

Colorado insurance coverage carriers have been denying in any other case legitimate property insurance coverage claims based mostly on a late discover technicality for years. Till right this moment, it was unclear whether or not the normal discover or notice-prejudice rule utilized in Colorado, leading to quite a few instances being dismissed for late discover, even the place an insurance coverage firm had beforehand made fee for harm.

Beneath conventional insurance coverage contract rules, if a policyholder fails to inform their insurer of a declare inside the time-frame specified within the coverage, the insurer might deny the declare outright, whatever the circumstances. This might happen even when the delay in notification precipitated no hurt or prejudice to the insurer’s means to research or defend towards the declare.

The notice-prejudice rule, nonetheless, requires the insurer to reveal that the delay in notification materially prejudiced its place earlier than it might deny protection based mostly on a late discover. Basically, this rule shifts the main focus from strict adherence to contractual deadlines to a extra equitable consideration of whether or not the insurer was really harmed by the late discover. The notice-prejudice rule beforehand utilized solely to uninsured/underinsured motorist and third-party legal responsibility insurance policies in Colorado.

Via its opinion issued on March 11, 2024, the Colorado Supreme Courtroom prolonged the notice-prejudice rule to occurrence-based, first-party home-owner property insurance coverage insurance policies.1 This opinion now requires Colorado insurers to indicate precise prejudice from delayed discover earlier than denying protection. Now not can Colorado insurance coverage carriers deny protection for claims based mostly solely on a policyholder’s failure to supply well timed discover with out demonstrating that the delay prejudiced the insurer’s means to research or defend towards the declare.

In delivering the 4-3 opinion of the courtroom, Justice Gabriel mentioned the significance of the rule in selling equity and stopping insurers from capitalizing on technicalities to disclaim protection. The courtroom discovered that current instances constantly utilized the notice-prejudice rule to prevalence insurance policies, the place the aim of discover is to permit insurers to research and defend towards claims.

[R]ecent instances have constantly utilized the notice-prejudice rule to prevalence insurance policies like these at situation, through which the aim of discover is to permit an insurer to research and defend towards the declare and isn’t a elementary time period defining the temporal boundaries of protection . . . . [F]or figuring out whether or not the notice-prejudice rule applies, particularly, the adhesive nature of insurance coverage contracts, the general public coverage goal of compensating tort victims, and the inequity of granting the insurer a windfall on account of a technicality, all help the applying of the notice-prejudice rule right here.

This choice is a win for Colorado policyholders, affording safety from dropping protection over late-notice technicalities when such delays don’t have an effect on the insurer’s means to course of the declare. It additionally units a major milestone in Colorado’s insurance coverage regulation panorama, aligning with jurisdictions like Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska, Utah, and South Dakota.

1 Gregory v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am., 2024 CO 13, — P.3d —, 2024 WL 1040531 (Colo. Mar. 11. 2024).

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