Newark Managing Partner Colin P. Hackett recently obtained a defense verdict on behalf of an insurance broker in two consolidated lawsuits alleging the broker failed to procure proper insurance for a New Jersey nightclub and its landlord.

The underlying claim involved a 2012 double shooting at the nightclub during a concert that resulted in the death of one patron and shattered the forearm of another patron. The injured patron and the estate of the deceased patron filed actions against multiple defendants, including the nightclub and its owners. The plaintiffs also named the nightclub's insurance broker as a defendant after the nightclub's insurance carrier denied coverage for the claim based on an assault and battery exclusion in the liability policy that was issued to the nightclub and procured by the insurance broker

We severed the professional liability claims against the insurance broker from the underlying negligent security claims against the other defendants. Those claims were tried in February and resulted in a seven-figure award to the deceased patron's estate and a six-figure award to the injured patron.

The severed professional liability claims went to trial after the plaintiffs' final settlement demands, combined totaling seven figures, were rejected by both the insurance broker and its insurer. Over the plaintiffs' objections, we obtained an in limine ruling at the time of trial that there would be no evidence or mention to the jury of the underlying claim, including the total judgment and the fact that one of the plaintiffs was an estate.

At trial, we argued that the insurance broker would have procured the proper liability insurance coverage had the nightclub owner been honest and advised he was running a nightclub and serving alcohol, rather than hosting birthday parties, baby showers, and not selling alcohol. We also called a liability expert who testified that the insurance broker did not breach its professional duty of care.

After five days of trial and two days of deliberation, the jury returned a 5-1 defense verdict, finding the broker had not breached its professional duty of care.

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