A Lesson In Insurance Policy Interpretation

How should an experienced Southern California mediator review an insurance policy? In a recent article in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, Superior Court Judge Rex Heeseman, author of the Rutter California Insurance Guide, gave some very valuable advice with respect to interpreting insurance policies.  According to Judge Heeseman: evaluate the whole insurance policy in order to interpret specific terms within it.
The recent California case of Wallman v. Suddock 200 Cal. App. 4th 1288 (2011) is the subject of the article.  Judge Heeseman points out that rather than argue that a specific term is ambiguous (in this case the phrase in an excess policy, “To Be Determined,” as a reference to the underlying primary policies), look at the entire policy.  Judge Heeseman believes that the question is not whether the term is ambiguous in the abstract, but whether it is ambiguous in the context of the specific policy.