Author Archive | DLS Tech

Chubb Unit Must Face Trimmed $3M Water Damage Suit

March 15, 2023

By Riley Murdock

A New York federal judge ruled that a Chubb unit must face an apartment dweller’s breach of contract and bad faith allegations after the insurer took seven years to deny her claim for water damage.
U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil partially granted Pacific Indemnity Co.’s motion to dismiss in an order Thursday, rejecting the insurer’s arguments that Lynda Arnet Hochfelder’s complaint was untimely. Hochfelder had said she discovered severe water damage in her apartment in 2014 but Pacific did not deny her claim until June 2021, leading her to accuse the insurer of unfairly delaying payment.

Pacific argued that its policy required Hochfelder to file her case within two years of her loss, but the policy does not define the term “loss” in that context, Judge Vyskocil said. She cited the 2010 Second Circuit ruling in Fabozzi v. Lexington Insurance C., in which the court found similar language ambiguous and sided with the policyholder, according to the order.

“Pacific Indemnity has not presented, nor has this court identified, any meaningful difference between this case and Fabozzi,” Judge Vyskocil wrote. “Pacific Indemnity denied the claim on June 30, 2021, allegedly breaching the contract. Because plaintiff brought this case within two years of that date, the motion to dismiss on timeliness grounds is without merit and is denied.”

Judge Vyskocil also refused to toss Hochfelder’s bad faith claim, which Pacific had argued was duplicative of her breach of contract count. Judge Vyskocil held that the contract claim was based on Pacific’s refusal to pay Hochfelder’s claim, while the bad faith claim was focused instead on the insurer’s repeated delays.

“This distinction (between delay and pay) is enough to preclude dismissal at the pleading stage on an argument of duplicative claims,” she wrote.

Pacific prevailed on one count, with Judge Vyskocil agreeing to toss a deceptive business practices claim. She held that Hochfelder did not accuse the insurer of actions that were deceptive or misleading in nature.

“We are very happy with this decision, which follows clear guidelines set by the Second Circuit in regards to requiring insurance companies to provide clear and unambiguous language in their insurance policies,” Hochfelder’s counsel, Jacques Catafago, said. “The defendant’s arguments failed to account for the Second Circuit precedent that the court relied upon in denying their motion, and the judge got it right.”

Hochfelder quickly reported her apartment’s water damage to Pacific after becoming aware of it in early 2014, filings show. However, despite fulfilling all the requirements of the policy, “Pacific Indemnity spent years delaying the claims process, which had costly consequences for plaintiff,” Judge Vyskocil wrote. The policy required Hochfelder to keep all damaged property until Pacific agreed she could get rid of it, leading her to incur years of unnecessary storage costs, according to the order.

Pacific eventually denied Hochfelder’s claim in 2021, citing a failure to comply with the conditions of the policy, according to case filings. She sued Pacific in February 2022 in New York state court, which the insurer removed to federal court shortly after. Hochfelder accused the Chubb unit of delaying payment and mishandling her claim in bad faith, as well as “baselessly” asserting that she hadn’t met the requirements of her policy, according to the order.

Hochfelder also had accused Pacific of violating New York business law, claiming the insurer had delayed and denied payment under false pretenses. She sought more than $3.3 million in compensatory damages for breach of contract and additional damages for her other claims, according to the order.

A representative for Chubb declined to comment.

Hochfelder is represented by Jacques Catafago of Catafago Fini LLP.

Pacific is represented by Paul Ferland of Cozen O’Connor.

The case is Hochfelder v. Pacific Indemnity Co., case number 1:22-cv-02012, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Continue Reading

Catafago Fini LLP Wins Dismissal of Federal Falun Gong Claims

October 10, 2021

Catafago Fini LLP scored a major victory in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a case captioned Zhang Jingrong, et al. v. Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance Inc., et al., 18-2626 (2d Cir. October 14, 2021). In this major appellate ruling, the Firm won dismissal of federal claims brought by Falun Gong practitioners.

The case involved Falun Gong practitioners who asserted claims under The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 (“FACEA”), which prohibits a person from intentionally injuring, intimidating, or interfering with another who is exercising her religion “at a place of religious worship.” 18 U.S.C. § 248(a)(2). The Falun Gong practitioners, the plaintiffs in the case, passed out flyers and displayed posters, primarily protesting the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Falun Gong, at sidewalk tables in Flushing, Queens, New York. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had harassed them in the vicinity of these tables, which the plaintiffs argued were “a place of religious worship” — in violation of FACEA.

After the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court determined that the sidewalk tables were “a place of religious worship” as a matter of law. On appeal, Catafago Fini LLP successfully argued before the Second Circuit that the Falun Gong tables were not “a place of religious worship.”

“We successfully argued that the Falun Gong Plaintiffs used the tables primarily as a base for protesting the Chinese government’s supposed abuses against Falun Gong, rather than for religious worship,” said Tom M. Fini, the lead attorney for the defendants. “The Second Circuit’s decision is groundbreaking because it is the first federal appellate decision to have laid out the standards determining what can truly be considered ‘a place of religious worship’ under FACEA.”

As a result of this appellate victory, the Second Circuit ordered that the Falun Gong Plaintiffs’ federal claims be dismissed in their entirety.

Continue Reading

Catafago Fini Defeats Class Certification of Meal Break
and Overtime Wage Claims

Catafago Fini LLP scored a major victory in the New York State Supreme Court on September 16, 2020, in defeating a motion seeking class certification of purported meal break and overtime claims under New York Labor Law. The case is captioned Gang Li v. Wing Keung Enterprises, Inc., et al. Index No. 713860/2018 (N.Y. Supreme Court, Queens County). The news release is at this link.

Continue Reading

Catafago Fini Defeats Consumer Class Action in Second Circuit

Catafago Fini recently scored yet another win in the Second Circuit, in which it defeated a major consumer class action. In Axon v. Florida’s Natural Growers Inc., 19-203-cv (2nd Cir. May 29, 2020), the plaintiff brought a class action against our client, who produces Florida’s Natural Orange Juice — one of the leading orange juice brands in the nation. The plaintiff filed suit in the Southern District of New York, claiming that oranges from Florida contain trace amounts of glyphosate, a chemical used in herbicides to enable Florida orange growers to protect oranges from destruction from weeds. The District Court accepted our arguments and dismissed the case. On appeal, the Second Circuit agreed with us: that the use of the phrase “Florida’s Natural” was not misleading. The orange juice is truthfully natural, in that it is made only from oranges, with no chemicals or other ingredients added by our client. The fact that all oranges grown in Florida (or for that matter, the world) may have extremely small trace amounts of herbicides in no way “misleads” the consuming public by using the phrase “Florida’s Natural” in the brand. This was not only a win for our client and the Firm, but also for common sense.

The Court Listener news post is here.

The Second Circuit decision is here.

Continue Reading

Catafago Fini Defeats Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Unit
in the Second Circuit

Catafago Fini LLP made headlines in scoring another victory in the Second Circuit against a Berkshire Hathaway insurance unit. In this case, United States Liability Company attempted to avoid its insurance obligations under a general liability policy. The Firm defeated all of the insurance company’s arguments. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with our argument that USLI waited too long — more than two years — to come up with a belated “rescission” argument. Moreover, the Firm defeated USLI’s attempt to avoid coverage under two exclusions, one for bodily injury to employees, and one for “construction.” Catafago Fini partner Tom M. Fini was quoted in Business Insurance: “’There’s a very troubling trend in America where insurers sneak these vague exclusions into their policies’ and then after collecting premiums ‘try to avoid coverage.’ Policyholders that pay their premiums expect coverage, he said.”

The news article is here.

The court decision is here.

Continue Reading

Catafago Fini LLP Wins Dismissal for Air China

Catafago Fini has scored another victory for Air China. In Peng Sheng Huang v. Air China Limited et al., Index No. 706696/2017 (New York Supreme Court, Queens County), the Plaintiff alleged that Air China “tortiously interfered” with an alleged shareholder agreement for a company that managed property of Air China. Partner Jacques Catafago moved for summary judgment on behalf of Air China. On December 31, 2019, the Court ruled in Air China’s favor, granting summary judgment and dismissing the claim against Air China in its entirety. As the Court held, there was no evidence that Air China even knew about the alleged agreement, and certainly no evidence that Air China in any way interfered with any agreement or acted improperly. This is Catafago Fini’s latest success in obtaining dismissing of actions brought against Air China. The December 31, 2019 Court decision is here.

Continue Reading

Catafago Fini Leads Air China to Victory In Dismissal
of Retaliation Claim

Representing Air China, Catafago Fini obtained dismissal with prejudice of a complaint alleging sexual harassment and retaliation (Peng v. Air China Limited et al., Index No. 706584/2018 (New York Supreme Court, Queens County)). This victory came after the Firm won dismissal of an earlier federal action brought by the same adversary. The November 20, 2018 Court decision is below. The adversary’s appeal of this decision also was dismissed. The court order is here.

Continue Reading

Catafago Fini LLP Defeats Attempt to Block Subpoena And Seal Court Pleadings In High-Profile Freedom of Speech Case

The New York Times and the New York Law Journal recently covered a significant victory by the Firm in defeating the attempt by an adversary to seal court records in a high-profile freedom of speech case pending in Brooklyn federal court.

Continue Reading 0

Supreme Court Committee of New York County Lawyers Association Honors Justice Richter

Justice Rosalyn Richter of the New York Appellate Division, First Department, was awarded the prestigious Justice Louis L. Capozzoli Gavil Award by the Supreme Court Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association. Tom Fini, one of the Firm’s co-founders, is co-Chair of the Supreme Court Committee.

Continue Reading 0

The Firm Brings Cutting-Edge Lawsuit to Stop Second-Hand
Smoke From Harming Cancer Survivor

The Firm brought a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court to stop a cancer survivor from being harmed by second hand smoke that was entering his apartment. The suit – which was successful in stopping the second hand smoke — seized on an increased recognition by courts that second-hand smoke kills and gives rise to claims.

Continue Reading 0

The Firm Defeats A $10 Million Attachment Of Assets Sought In
Southern District of New York

Catafago Fini LLP was part of a legal team that successfully defeated a $10 million attachment sought against a global technology company in federal court.

Continue Reading 0

The Firm Wins Dismissal of a Defamation Action Brought By Lindsay Lohan Against Fox News Commentator

The Firm was part of a legal team that was successful in defeating a defamation claim that was brought by Lindsay Lohan and her mother against Fox News commentator Michelle Fields. The New York State Supreme Court granted the Firm’s motion to dismiss. In throwing out the case, the court held that the Lohans were public figures, and that comments about drug use by the Lohans could not support a defamation action. After all, reasoned the Court, “truth is a defense” to a defamation claim.

Continue Reading 0

Co-Founder Jacques Catafago Featured In New York Times in Battle Against F. Lee Bailey

Firm co-founder Jacques Catafago was featured in the New York Times for his leading role in the well-publicized battle over the breakup of F. Lee Bailey’s old law firm.

Continue Reading 0