Bruce A. Friedman is a mediator with a national practice. With years of litigation experience behind him, he understands the goals of the mediation process and will do his best to ensure that the needs of both parties are met, justly and efficiently. For more information on the mediation services that Bruce A. Friedman provides, check out his website at http://www.FriedmanMediation.com or call him at (310) 201-0010.
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.
The Court of Appeal in Wallman, supra., found against the policyholder argument that the excess policy was excess of all primary policies, or to no primary policies. Instead, the Court found that the excess policy was excess to all Capital Insurance Group policies as the Schedule of Underlying Insurance identified Capital Insurance Group as the insurer providing the underlying insurance. According to Judge Heeseman, Wallman illustrates the importance of evaluating the entire policy when construing a particular term in that policy. Bottom line: In California the insurance policy must be considered as a whole and in the circumstances of the particular case.