Washington Federal District Court Rejects Technical Claims Handling Violations as Basis for Extra-Contractual Claims Against Liability Insurer

Washington's claims handling regulations include short deadlines for responding to an insured's tender of a claim for defense and indemnity: 10 working days to acknowledge a tender (WAC 284-30-360(1)), and 30 days to complete its investigation of a claim unless the investigation cannot reasonably be completed within that time (WAC 284-30-370). When insurers fail to meet these deadlines, Washington insureds often assert claims for violation of Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct and Consumer Protection Acts as well as for bad faith and/or negligence.

But should insurers face such claims where their only alleged wrongdoing is a short delay in responding to an insured? United District Court Judge Robert Bryan recently addressed this issue in Cardenas v. Navigators Insurance Co., (December 16, 2011), a case in which the liability insurer had agreed to defend its insured against a claim, had paid all pre- and post-tender defense costs, but had not accepted the defense within 30 days of tender. Granting the insurer's motion for summary judgment, Judge Bryan ruled that "[v]iolations . . . of the 10 and 30 day time periods for acknowledging a claim and completing an investigation are simple technical violations and standing alone, do not evidence any unreasonable conduct on the part of [an insurer] in promptly responding to the tender."

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