Emergent Partner Peter Roldan Argues High Profile D&O Insurance Appeal in the Ninth Circuit

Emergent LLP partner Peter Roldan represents corporate and individual policyholders in insurance coverage and bad faith litigation.  On February 13, Peter appeared before the Ninth Circuit for oral argument in HotChalk, Inc. v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., a much-discussed case that commentators believe “is likely to shape the scope of professional services exclusions.”  Law360 named it one of the three key D&O insurance cases to watch in 2018. 

Appearing on behalf of Emergent’s client, HotChalk, Inc., a leading online education platform that serves universities and students across the United States, Peter advocated for a reversal of the district court’s holding that HotChalk could only be liable for the claims alleged against it because of the professional services that it provided, even if, as was the case here, there was only a minimal causal connection or incidental relationship between the claim and HotChalk’s professional services.  This standard, if upheld, would essentially eviscerate D&O coverage for HotChalk and other professional service companies.

Peter argued that the professional services exclusion should only apply to claims arising out of a company’s provision of services to its clients and customers, and that it was not meant to exclude claims arising out of an insured’s internal business practices and management decisions.  Otherwise, professional service companies would find that their coverage was effectively swallowed up by the exclusion because almost everything they do is in some way tied to the services they provide.

Video of Peter's argument is available through the Ninth Circuit's YouTube channel.

Emergent also received support from policyholder advocacy group United Policyholders, which filed an amicus brief in connection with the appeal, seeking to reverse the trend of insurers stretching the professional services exclusion beyond its intended scope.

Peter's Ninth Circuit oral argument is the second Emergent partners have presented in the past three months; over that same period, the firm also argued two cases before the California Court of Appeal.  To find out whether Emergent can handle your appeal, contact us.