Title coverage found, but amount limited.

An apartment developer sought recovery on a title insurance policy after unfortunate zoning stopped the project.  Levy Gardens Partners v. Commonwealth Land Title Insurance, No. 12-30010 (Jan. 31, 2013).  The Fifth Circuit affirmed the finding of coverage, concluding, among other matters, that: (1) state court rulings about zoning laws deserved deference by federal courts in later coverage litigation; (2) the state court preliminary injunction litigation about zoning had become a sufficiently “final decree” to trigger coverage; (3) delay in giving notice did not cause prejudice; and (4) the policy did not require the developer to invoke a “conditional use process.”  The Court also found, however, that the policy “unambiguously restricts liability to the difference in the value of the title with and without the zoning encumbrance,” thus limiting the insured’s recovery to roughly $650,000 rather than several million in development expenses.  In rejecting the insured’s arguments about the policy, the Court also found no prejudicial violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(c) about the pleading of defensive matters.

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