13368 Index No. 652899/16 Case No. 2020-02059
Delahunt Law PLLC, Buffalo (Timothy E. Delahunt of counsel), for appellant. Adrian & Associates, LLC, New York (James M. Adrian of counsel), for respondent.
Delahunt Law PLLC, Buffalo (Timothy E. Delahunt of counsel), for appellant.
Adrian & Associates, LLC, New York (James M. Adrian of counsel), for respondent.
Manzanet–Daniels, J.P., Mazzarelli, Mendez, Shulman, JJ.
Order, Supreme Court, New York County (Nancy M. Bannon, J.), entered January 17, 2020, which, inter alia, denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment for a declaration of coverage, and granted defendant's motion which sought a declaration that it is not obligated to defend or indemnify plaintiff, unanimously reversed, on the law, with costs, defendant's motion denied, plaintiff's motion granted and it is declared that defendant has a duty to defend and indemnify plaintiff in the underlying action.
"[A] timely disclaimer pursuant to Insurance Law § 3420(d) is required when a claim falls within the coverage terms but is denied based on a policy exclusion" ( GPH Partners, LLC v. American Home Assur. Co., 87 A.D.3d 843, 843, 929 N.Y.S.2d 131 [1st Dept. 2011] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]). The purpose of Insurance Law § 3420 is to protect the insured, injured party, or any other claimant with an interest in the outcome, from prejudice based on a delayed denial of coverage (see Admiral Ins. Co. v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 86 A.D.3d 486, 488, 927 N.Y.S.2d 629 [1st Dept. 2011] ). "[T]imeliness of an insurer's disclaimer is measured from the point in time when the insurer first learns of the grounds for disclaimer of liability or denial of coverage" ( Country–Wide Ins. Co. v. Preferred Trucking Servs. Corp., 22 N.Y.3d 571, 575–576, 983 N.Y.S.2d 460, 6 N.E.3d 578  [internal quotation marks omitted]). The question as to whether the insurer disclaimed coverage as soon as reasonably possible after it first learns of the ground for disclaimer is necessarily case-specific ( id. at 576, 983 N.Y.S.2d 460, 6 N.E.3d 578 ). "However, where there is no excuse or mitigating factor, the issue poses a legal question for the court, and courts have found relatively short periods to be unreasonable as a matter of law" ( Travelers Ins. Co. v. Volmar Constr. Co., 300 A.D.2d 40, 43, 752 N.Y.S.2d 286 [1st Dept. 2002] [internal quotation marks omitted]).
Here, defendant's disclaimer, dated December 24, 2014, was untimely as a matter of law. Defendant's position that it only received plaintiff's claim on December 16, 2014 is unpersuasive. Defendant was on notice of the underlying accident several months before it disclaimed coverage and commenced an investigation with respect to the alleged accident. Therefore, defendant was sufficiently aware of the facts that would support a disclaimer, but waited almost two months before disclaiming coverage ( GPH Partners, LLC, 87 A.D.3d at 844, 929 N.Y.S.2d 131 ).