A California appeals court has held that insurance brokers do not have an implied duty to investigate and fulfill a client's coverage needs when placing policies, preserving the state's conservative stance on broker liability despite persistent efforts by unhappy policyholders to go after brokers' wallets.
Robert Chesler, a shareholder at Anderson Kill PC, said policyholders with more favorable facts can be successful in lawsuits against brokers.
“Some courts, including in New Jersey, look at the broker more like a risk manager. They say it's the broker's job to ask these questions,” he said.
“The case law is not fully developed [in New Jersey], but it's going in the direction of holding the broker to a higher standard.”
Either way, brokers should be careful to document their communications with clients and not rely on memories, keeping track of the requests that policyholders have made, Chesler said.
Moreover, brokers that advertise that they can get policyholders the best coverage may inadvertently create a special relationship with their clients, which could expand their duties, according to Chesler. “You see more and more frequently brokers holding themselves out as experts,” he said.