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Vol. 3, Iss. 5
March 19, 2014

Well the inaugural edition of the Tapas column – where small dishes of insurance coverage news and notes are served – wasn’t a bust. To the contrary, I think it worked and it received good feedback.

In case you missed it last issue, when putting together Coverage Opinions I often come across interesting cases, articles or general news items that are worthy of note, but not long enough to justify a stand-alone article. So these items usually go by the wayside. Now, to prevent these nuggets from getting lost, they will be featured in the Tapas column – a collection of brief insurance news and notes and odds and ends.

Court Sanctions Insurer Counsel For Exceeding Page Limit

I’ve never seen a ruling such as this in a coverage case:

“Page limits Sanctions
Arrowood’s Counsel Sedgwick, LLP’s Reply to Bel Air’s Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment, failed to comply with the Court’s Order on Page Limits. Sedgwick, on behalf of Arrowood, filed an untimely ex parte motion for permission to submit a reply brief in excess of 10 pages. However, a request to file a brief exceeding the page limit must be filed before the brief at issue is filed. Accordingly, Sedgwick is ordered to pay a sanction in the amount of $200.00 ($50.00 per page for the four pages over the page limit) within ten (10) days of the date of this order.” Arrowood Indem. Co. v. Bel Air Mart, No. 11–00976 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 4, 2014).

If courts want to limit the number of pages in briefs the answer is not to set a fixed number. The better, and simpler, approach is to impose a $50.00 sanction for each impertinent page.

The Biggest Insurance Coverage Case EVER

All I can say is that Allstate’s Board of Directors must be breathing a mighty big sigh of relief that it came out on top in Nelson v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. 681 MDA 21013 (Pa. Super. Ct. Mar. 12, 2014). Allstate denied Purnell Nelson’s claim, under a renter’s insurance policy, for the theft of 1,000 poems that he authored. Nelson sued Allstate. His complaint, in pencil and scrawled in barely legible longhand, touted his authorial prowess and the unfortunate events by which he came to lose the poems. The trial court dismissed the complaint as frivolous – presumably finding no rhyme or reason to the allegations.

Nelson’s second stanza - the Pennsylvania Superior Court – where he filed a brief that was hand-written and barely legible. At the conclusion of the brief Nelson asserted a right to compensatory damages in the amount of “$1 Google.” The court took this to mean “one googol,” which it then concluded meant that Nelson was seeking damages in the amount of $10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. I always thought that the biggest number possible was a trillion gazillion. But that’s why I’m not a mathematician. [Googol is the namesake of Google. You can learn more about this really big number at Wikipedia.]

The Superior Court concluded that Nelson’s brief did not contain any coherent argument. No, really. It did. The court quashed the appeal, no doubt leaving Nelson onomato-p.o.-ed.

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