Mr. Zitzer is a litigation attorney. Kurt was recently honored by his peers by being selected for the second straight year as one of the Top 50 attorneys in the Southwest by Southwest Super Lawyers . Additionally, AZ Business magazine recently selected Kurt as one of the top 10 lawyers in the state in the area of Employee Benefits and Insurance Law. Kurt is also included in The Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Insurance Law and Products Liability Litigation - Defense. His practice focuses on writing coverage opinions for a wide variety of insurance product lines. When these positions are disputed, he defends them. The cases I enjoy most are those that derive from one-of-a-kind commercial insurance policies ---- cases that present brand-new issues to the courts and create new law. He has defended commercial insurance cases in 14 states ---- in mediation, arbitration, litigation, on trial and on appeal. Kurt also has experience serving as an arbitrator in private arbitrations involving insurance coverage disputes, and as an expert witness involving coverage and bad faith claims.
Kurt also engages in reinsurance coverage opinion writing, mediation and arbitration ---- focusing primarily on facultative reinsurance agreements for property and casualty insurers.
In addition to insurance coverage and commercial litigation, he defends clients ---- especially lawyers and accountants ---- faced with professional liability claims. He represents accountants confronted with disciplinary proceedings and malpractice claims, as well as other professionals in the fields of architecture, engineering, real estate and insurance. As an active member of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society, Kurt regularly speaks at this group's seminars on emerging issues in professional liability.
Kurt's practice includes the defense of product liability claims involving the manufacturing, distribution and sale of vehicles and their component parts, small machinery, household products, HVAC equipment, construction materials and other consumer products. Mr. Zitzer has successfully defended serious bodily injury and wrongful death claims as well as property damage claims in Arizona and other jurisdictions. He has resolved suits through trial, arbitration, motion practice and mediated settlement, and Kurt is regularly called upon to defend the interests of those companies accused of manufacturing, distributing or selling a dangerous of defective product.
He also represents real estate developers, with a focus on projects that include hospitality, medical and professional office buildings. He uses his knowledge of insurance coverage to advise clients on risk management issues ---- including procurement of insurance and drafting of construction contracts.
Before I became a lawyer, I ran a small business, so I understand that legal issues are just one of the many concerns faced by business owners. I take great pleasure in helping them successfully resolve a conflict, so they can get on with their lives and their business.
Kurt maintains close ties with his colleagues in the business community via his active involvement with the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, where he serves as Board Chair. Outside of the office, Kurt enjoys family activities, sports, coaching, travel and skating with other over the hill ice hockey players in local recreational leagues.
Kurt was profiled in the April/May 2010 issue of Scottsdale@Work .
• Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers of America (Woodward/White, Inc., Aiken, S.C.)
• Named by AZ Business magazine (March/April 2014 issue) as a Top Lawyer in Insurance (2014)
• Named to Southwest Super Lawyers Top 50 list (2013-2014)
• Named to Southwest Super Lawyers list (2012-2014)
•Selected as one of Arizona's Finest Lawyers (2011)
•Former Editor-in-Chief of The John Marshall Law Review
•Awarded the highest possible Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating, AV Preeminent (AV is a registered certification mark of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies)
•State Bar of Arizona CLE, Arizona Tort Law Handbook Seminar, Phoenix, Arizona, Design Professional Liability (June 2013)
•Defense Research Institute (DRI) Insurance Coverage and Practice Symposium, New York, New York, Hot Issues in Professional Liability Coverage: Lessons from the DRI Compendium (December 2012)
•State Bar of Arizona CLE, Bad Faith Insurance Law Seminar, Phoenix, Arizona, Third-Party Bad Faith (August 2012)
•Panelist on the subject of legal ethics, malpractice and risk management for law firms, Arizona State Bar Annual Convention (June 2012)
•The Defense and Indemnity of Claims in Arizona, Navigators Group of Companies, San Francisco, California (August 2010)
•Arizona State Bar CLE by the Sea in Scottsdale, Arizona, Ethical Considerations for Law Firm Management (June 2010)
•Arizona State Bar CLE by the Sea in San Diego, California, Minding the Store, Internal Ethics and Liability Management (July 2009)
•Hot Topics in Professional Liability Insurance: Electronic Data and Bad Faith, Professional Liability Underwriting Society in Denver, Colorado (April 2008)
•Insurance Coverage Litigation, National Business Institute (September 2007)
•Claim Notice Requirements Under New York Law (July 2006)
•Construction Defect Claims Handling (July 2005)
•Recent Developments in Design Professional Liability, Professional Liability Underwriting Society in Phoenix, Arizona (October 2004)
•Construction Defect Litigation - A Primer on Claims and Coverage Issues (March 2002)
•Design Professionals - A Primer on Claims and Coverage Issues (December 2001)
Spoliation of evidence outside coverage of CGL Policy.
Nelson v. Navigator Insurance Company, et al., 2013 WL 5314361 (D. Ariz. 2013)
Kurt Zitzer, Robert Justman
September 25, 2013
In Nelson v. Navigator Insurance Company, 2013 WL 5314361 (D.Ariz. 2013), the general liability insurer was faced with a $4.2 million judgment. The policyholder operated a steel fabrication factory. A chain holding up an I-beam broke, the I-beam fell on the plaintiff's legs. The plaintiff, a 21-year-old, suffered the amputation of his left leg. The policyholder lost the defective chain and the plaintiff sued for spoliation of evidence. The insurer denied coverage.
After the $4.2 million judgment, the plaintiff pursued the insurer by way of assignment. The policyholder's president and office manager provided the plaintiff with affidavits testifying they had reasonable expectations of coverage for the spoliation-of-evidence suit.
Meagher & Geer represented the general liability insurer in the coverage case and obtained summary judgment. The spoliation-of-evidence suit was outside the coverage afforded by the CGL Policy and Excess Policy. This coverage case highlighted the need for insurance coverage attorneys with decades of experience devoted to the coverage specialty.
Meagher & Geer explained to the Court the essence and nature of the CGL Policy. Why coverage for spoliation-of-evidence would run contrary to the fundamental structure of the CGL Policy. Why coverage for spoliation-of-evidence is irreconcilable with the purpose of the CGL Policy. How a principled understanding of the nature and essence of the CGL Policy precludes coverage for spoliation-of-evidence. Meagher & Geer secured victory for its client.
Decision in favor of National Casualty Company in automobile test drive case.
Czapski v. Maher, et al., 954 N.E. 2d 237 (Ill. App.1st Dist. 2011)
Kurt Zitzer, Thomas Crouch
August 03, 2011
The case involved the death of Mark Czapski, who was employed by Motor Werks as a car salesman. Mr. Czapski was killed when Christopher Maher, an individual test driving a Motor Werks BMW auto that was for sale, was involved in an automobile accident. Ms. Czapski was a passenger in the vehicle during the test drive. Mr. Maher was sued by the Czapski estate and sought coverage under the National Casualty policy claiming to be an insured under the policy.
National Casualty's policy included an exclusion that stated customers are not insureds under the policy. The issue before the court was whether Mr. Maher was a customer and, consequently, not an insured under the policy. Maher and the plaintiff argued that customer was not defined within the policy and, therefore, was ambiguous and that customer should include someone who makes a purchase. Reversing the trial court's finding of an ambiguity, the court held that a test driver of the vehicle is a customer within the common and ordinary meaning of the word, and that National Casualty did not owe a duty to indemnify Mr. Maher because he did not qualify as an insured.
Kurt Zitzer represented National Casualty before the trial court, and Tom Crouch and Kurt represented National Casualty on appeal.
Arizona Court of Appeals restricts use of Morris agreements.
Leflet v. Redwood Fire & Casualty Ins. Co., 226 Ariz. 297, 247 P.3d 180 (Ariz.App. 2011)
Kurt Zitzer, Thomas Crouch, John Hendricks
February 14, 2011
The Arizona Court of Appeals held that Morris agreements do not extend to agreements that included one insurance company setting up other carriers who are allegedly not participating in a mutual insured's defense or indemnity. Leflet was a construction defect case. The putative insured, Hancock Communities, was defended by its own carrier, and sought additional insured coverage from several other carriers. A dispute arose over defense and indemnity allocations between Hancock's own primary carrier, and the additional insurers, referred to in the agreement as the Non-Participating Insurers. To resolve the case, Hancock's carrier paid a fraction of its policy limit, and entered into an $8.4 million Morris agreement along with its insured and the claimant.
While the court reaffirmed the rule that a carrier must first have notice of a Morris agreement to be bound by its terms, the court clarified that notice means actual and meaningful notice, and not just constructive notice that the parties are contemplating a Morris agreement. Further, notice of the Morris agreement must include terms sufficient to cause the agreement, if entered into, to be binding and enforceable.
More important, however, was the court's holding that a Morris agreement which benefits one carrier against another is not a Morris agreement at all. The policy behind Morris was to remove the insured from the potentially crushing exposure of personal liability, and transfer the risk of coverage and collection of the judgment upon the claimant. As the court noted an insurer that reserves its rights may not employ Morris to reduce its liability below policy limits, and an insured that facilitates such an effort breaches its duty to cooperate with its other insurers.
Kurt M. Zitzer and John C. Hendricks represented the client at the trial court and were successful in winning summary judgment. Thomas H. Crouch successfully represented the client on appeal, and argued the case on behalf of all the insurance carriers.
Arizona Court recognizes an insurer's right to reimbursement.
Phillips & Associates, P.C. v. Navigators Ins. Co., 764 F. Supp. 2d 1174, 2011 WL 537509 (D. Ariz., February 11, 2011)
February 11, 2011
The District Court of Arizona held that under either California or Arizona law, a carrier that reserves the right to seek reimbursement of defense and indemnity payments may recover those payments from its insured if it is adjudicated that the policy of insurance ultimately did not cover the claim.
In Phillips, the carrier provided the insured law firm with errors and omissions coverage. A suit was filed against the insured, and the carrier agreed to defend the insured subject to a reservation of rights that included issues of whether the claim had first been made against the insured during the policy period, whether the insured had prior knowledge of the existence of the claim before the carrier issued the policy, and whether the insured failed to disclose a potential claim to the carrier when the application for insurance was made. The carrier subsequently settled the suit against the law firm, under reservation of rights, and with the consent to the insured. The insurer client moved for judgment on the pleadings, requesting that the court determine whether the carrier has a right of reimbursement from the insured if the policy ultimately did not cover the claim. The court found that because the carrier had reserved its rights to include the right to seek reimbursement, and because the insured had consented to the settlement with the prior knowledge that the carrier had reserved its rights, the carrier was entitled to be reimbursed from the insured for the defense and indemnity paid to settle an uncovered claim. In so holding, the court noted that public policy favors such a result:
If an insurer waived its coverage position simply by settling a claim for the insured, the insurer would be forced either to refuse to settle and face a bad faith claim, or to settle the lawsuit and lose its coverage defenses. [citation omitted] The 'resulting Catch-22 would force insurers to indemnify non-covered claims,' violating 'basic notions of fairness.' Permitting an insurer to make a reservation of rights not only protects against unjust enrichment of the insured, but also 'advances significant public policy considerations.
Kurt M. Zitzer represented Navigators Insurance Company as counsel along with co-counsel from the firm of Wiley Rein.
$25 million legal malpractice case against law firm dismissed after undisputed evidence showed plaintiffs were warned about potential claims and then did not timely file suit.
Goble, et al. v. Beckwith, et al., No. CV2008-051863 (Maricopa County Sup. Ct., Ariz., Dec. 2, 2010)
December 02, 2010
Meagher & Geer defeated a $25 million dollar legal malpractice case within months after the suit was filed and before any discovery was taken or significant legal expenses were incurred. Plaintiffs were a group of investors who alleged they were not diligently represented in an underlying complex litigation case by several elite lawyers in the Phoenix area. Although those lawyers obtained a multi-million dollar settlement for Plaintiffs in the underlying case, Plaintiffs nevertheless sued alleging the settlement could have been more had the lawyers prosecuted the case differently. Meagher & Geer moved to dismiss the investor suit as untimely, arguing that Plaintiffs knew about their cause of action against their former lawyers and incurred some damages more than two years before filing suit. The Maricopa County Superior Court agreed with Meagher & Geer and dismissed the case. In doing so, the court rejected Plaintiffs' novel arguments that the statute of limitations should be tolled until they learned the full extent of their damages.
Homeowners' association did not waive the right to enforce its CC&Rs and on that basis properly prohibited lot owner from using his property to construct a road to an adjacent planned subdivision.
College Book Centers, Inc. v. Carefree Foothills Homeowners' Association, 225 Ariz. 533, 241 P.3d 897 (App. 2010)
Thomas Crouch, Kurt Zitzer
Meagher & Geer represented a homeowners' association in a lawsuit brought by a developer. The developer sought to build a road across a lot he owned in a subdivision in order to gain access to adjacent land for development. The developer claimed the association that governs the subdivision had waived the right to enforce the deed restriction that prevents the building of the road. A jury found that waiver had occurred, but on appeal, Meagher & Geer successfully persuaded the court that the waiver claimed should have been dismissed as a matter of law. The court of appeals found that the developer had not presented sufficient evidence that the association's actions in the past regarding the development constituted waiver of the deed restrictions.
Court Upholds Insured Location limitation to liability coverage.
Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Jones, 695 F.Supp.2d 978 (D.Ariz., Feb. 22, 2010)
Kurt Zitzer, Robert Justman
February 22, 2010
The United States District Court for the District of Arizona held that an ATV accident resulting from the use of the insured's ATV on her cul-de-sac did not occur on an insured location under homeowners liability coverage. Whether the area directly adjacent to an insured's home qualifies as an insured location for an ATV accident has generated divergent case law. The issue was recently certified by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Arrowood Indem. Co. v. King, 605 F.3d 62 (2nd Cir. 2010).
Two women were in a catastrophic accident while riding the insured's ATV. The ATV rolled-over on the cul-de-sac directly in front of the insured's home. The insured testified that the cul-de-sac was my cul-de-sac. The two women were not wearing helmets, and one was knocked into a coma. She had over $500,000 in medical bills. The homeowners policy provided liability coverage for the ATV while on an insured location. Insured location was defined by the standard policy as the residence premises or premises used in connection with the residence premises.
Meagher & Geer persuaded the Arizona federal court that the homeowners policy was structured to provide liability coverage for the ATV only while on the insured's private property or premises integral to the private property, such as a deeded right-of-way or easement. The homeowners policy never afforded liability coverage for an ATV when on a public street. Although out-of-state case law suggested the regular use of a field, trail, or private street near the insured's home could allow for coverage, the homeowners policy never covered an ATV accident on a public street. The homeowners policy could not be squared with a motor vehicle accident on a public street.
August 18, 2014 Eleven Meagher & Geer Lawyers Selected as Best Lawyers in America 2015
April 11, 2014 Southwest Super Lawyers 2014 Recognizes Meagher & Geer Attorneys
March 26, 2014 Kurt Zitzer Named One of Arizona's Top Insurance Lawyers
April 24, 2013 Kurt Zitzer Receives Segner Award
April 12, 2013 Southwest Super Lawyers 2013 Recognizes Meagher & Geer Attorneys
August 14, 2012 Meagher & Geer Lawyers Zitzer and Plitt Co-Author Chapter in Arizona Tort Law Handbook
April 13, 2012 Southwest Super Lawyers 2012 Recognizes Meagher & Geer Attorneys
January 20, 2011 Clients Prevail: Arizona Court of Appeals Restricts use of Morris Agreements
July 23, 2009 Kurt Zitzer on Legal Ethics Panel
April 1, 2009 Court's Ruling Favors Client Scottsdale Insurance Company
March 31 2009 Summary Judgment Win for Client, Scottsdale Insurance
March 18, 2009 Kurt Zitzer is Faculty Member for Bar Association CLE
April 30, 2008 Kurt Zitzer Elected to Chamber of Commerce
October 25, 2012 Professional Liability Insurance - Firm's Lawyers are Authors of Just-Released Compendium
Laura Hanson, Bradley Jones, Charles Jones, Robert Justman, Henry Pfutzenreuter, Kurt Zitzer
March 1, 2011 Insurance Law Update
Arizona Court Recognizes an Insurer's Right to Reimbursement
February 1, 2011 Insurance Law Update
Arizona Restricts use of Morris Agreements
Thomas Crouch, John Hendricks, Kurt Zitzer
June 11, 2013 Zitzer on faculty of Tort Law Handbook program
Design Professional Liability
December 6-7, 2012 Kurt Zitzer Speaks at DRI Insurance Coverage and Practice Symposium
August 30, 2012 Kurt Zitzer is Faculty Member for Bad Faith Insurance Law Seminar
June 21, 2012 Kurt Zitzer Serves as Panelist for Arizona State Bar Annual Convention
Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa
October 5, 2011 The Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) Southwest Chapter Educational Conference
Insuring the Information Age
Chaparral Suites & Resort
June 17, 2010 Zitzer on Ethics Panel
June 15-18, 2009 Kurt Zitzer is Faculty Member for Bar Association CLE