How to Notice Mississippi

TexasBarToday_TopTen_Badge_SmallRiver Oaks, an apartment management business originally based entirely in Louisiana, expanded into Mississippi in 2011.  It had a workers comp policy with Bridgefield Insurance, which provided “Other States” coverage for Mississippi if River Oaks notified Bridgefield of activity there.  After an employee’s injury in Mississippi, Bridgefield denied coverage for failure to comply with this notice requirement.  Bridgefield Casualty Ins. Co. v. River Oaks Management, Inc., No. 13-31077 (Oct. 27, 2014, unpublished).

Bridgefiled won the coverage dispute in district court, and the Fifth Circuit agreed that: (1) the provision was not ambiguous; (2) the provision was a condition precedent to coverage, so Bridgefield did not have to show prejudice from the lack of notice; and (3) for similar reasons, the provision did not implicate the Louisiana “anti-technical” statutes.

But, the Court found a material fact issue and reversed — agreeing with the district court that there was a factual dispute about whether an audit by Bridgefield put it on notice of the Mississippi activity (and accepted payments after that time), the Court disagreed with the district court’s conclusion that the dispute was not material: “An insurer may waive a provision that falls short of granting it the right to cancel the entire policy, such as the exclusion-of-coverage provision at issue here.”

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