Bill Knowles focuses his practice on insurance coverage and commercial litigation matters.
Bill advises his clients concerning insurance coverage for a variety of claims, including construction defect, environmental and general liability. He has served in an advisory capacity while claims are pending and represents clients both before and after litigation with the insurer ensues. In addition, he has extensive experience litigating and trying cases to verdict, including claims regarding product liability, premises liability, unfair competition, contract, construction defect, job site injury and insurance coverage. Bill has appeared before the appellate courts in Washington, Oregon and the 9th and 10th Circuits, and in trial courts throughout the United States.
Bill earned his Bachelor of Arts from Washington State University in 1983, and his J.D from Seattle University in 1987.
March 11, 2009
Cozen O’Connor Attorneys Lecture For CPCU Society
April 14, 2017
On April 11, 2017, the Division III Washington Court of Appeals, on a 2 to 1 vote, held that third party administrators and adjusters can be liable in bad faith actions under multiple legal theories. Merriman v. Am. Guar. & Liab. Ins. Co., No. 33929-7-III (Apr. 11, 2017). In Merriman, the...
December 16, 2016
William F. Knowles and Katie M. Sluss discuss a decision by the Division I Washington Court of Appeals that granted partial relief to an insurer and held that if an insured is legally insulated from any exposure to a tort victim, the presumption of harm in a bad faith claim against the insurer is rebutted and there is no coverage by estoppel.
October 21, 2016
William Knowles and Jonathan Toren discuss the latest Washington Supreme Court decision regarding the attorney-client privilege and whether it protects a corporation’s attorney’s communications with former employees of the corporation.
September 28, 2016
Julia A. Molander and William F. Knowles discuss the FountainCourt Homeowners Association v. American Family Mutual Ins. Co. decision holds that eviscerated the seminal case of Wyoming Sawmills v. Transportation Ins. Co.
December 01, 2015
the Supreme Court of Oregon overturned 42 years of precedent, holding that Stubblefield v. St. Paul Fire & Marine erred when it decided that a covenant not to execute given in exchange for an assignment of rights, by itself, creates a release that dissolves an insured’s liability and, by extension, the insurer’s liability as well.
May 06, 2014
Last week, the Washington Court of Appeals held that “in an insurance bad faith case, the amount of a reasonable covenant judgment sets a floor, not a ceiling, on the damages the jury may award.” Miller v. Safeco Ins. Co., No. 68594-5-1. The claim arose out of an automobile accident in 2000, when Patrick Kenny, the at-fault driver, rear-ended a cement truck, severely injuring his three passengers.
May 01, 2014
William Knowles and Kathleen Grohman, of the Global Insurance Department in Seattle, co-authored an article on 3D printing in Claims Management Magazine. The article focuses on 3D printing and “why this emerging technology isn’t smelling so sweet to insurers.”
March 14, 2014
Construction companies operating in multiple jurisdictions are finding that standardized language used in typical liability policies is subject to considerably different interpretations from one state to another.
November 14, 2013
In Stewart Title Guar. Co. v. Sterling Savings Bank, et al., Wash. No. 87087-0 (October 3, 2013), the Washington Supreme Court held that a nonclient insurer may not pursue a malpractice claim against appointed defense counsel for failure to assert defenses favorable to the insurer, unless the insurer could show it was an intended beneficiary of the legal services provided by appointed defense counsel. The court reasoned that neither an alignment of interest between an insurer and policyholder nor appointed counsel’s duty to inform the carrier regarding case activity, equated to a duty of care owed by appointed defense counsel to the appointing insurer. The court declined to reach the parties’ equitable subrogation arguments that formed the basis of the actual legal malpractice claim.
August 16, 2013
In a case widely reported by the national media, the Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled that a governmental entity may face liability for faulty road design that leads to injuries in car crashes, even when the driver is drunk and driving recklessly.
March 18, 2013
The Washington Supreme Court joined a minority of jurisdictions that hold that insurers may not unilaterally reserve the right to seek reimbursement for defense costs paid in defending non-covered claims through a reservation of rights letter. In National Surety Corp. v. Immunex Corp., the Washington Supreme Court, in a five to four decision, held that insurers defending under a reservation of rights may not seek reimbursement for defense costs from the insured, even if there is a determination that the insured is not entitled to coverage under the policy No. 86535-3 (March 7, 2013). In so holding, the court recognized that, upon a showing of actual and substantial prejudice resulting from an insured’s delayed tender, an insurer could minimize or avoid liability for defense costs.
December 19, 2012
In Capitol Specialty Insurance v. JBC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. et al., No. 68129-0-1, 2012 Wash. App. LEXIS 2835 (Ct. App. Dec. 10, 2012), the Washington Court of Appeals held a firearms exclusion in a commercial general liability (CGL) policy unambiguously excludes coverage for all claims arising from a nightclub shooting regardless of who used the firearm, including those claims characterized as pre-shooting negligence. The court distinguished the holding from those claims where there are allegations of post-shooting acts that lead to further injury or harm to the claimant.
November 13, 2012
Collectibility in Legal Malpractice Suits - A Required Element in Proving Damages: Schmidt v. Coogan - Commercial Litigation Alert - In Schmidt v. Coogan, No. 41279-9-II, 2012 WL 5331567 (October 30, 2012), the Washington Court of Appeals held that (1) collectibility is a required component in determining legal malpractice damages and (2) the failure to prove collectibility is fatal to a plaintiff trying to establish damages in a legal malpractice action.
March 01, 2012
''Wrap'' insurance programs have become a popular alternative to traditional insurance arrangements, particularly on large construction projects. However, contractors need to be aware of some of the unique issues that arise in wrap programs - specifically, liability insurance wraps.
February 13, 2012
The Erosion Continues: Washington Supreme Court Expands the Olympic Steamship Rule and Finds a Viable Bad Faith Claim by a PIP "Insured" - Global Insurance Alert! - In Matsyuk v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 2012 Wash. LEXIS 119 (Feb.9 2012), the Washington Supreme Court held that: (1) a tortfeasor's insurer that provides both Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and liability coverage must pay a pro rata share of the attorney fees incurred by the PIP insureds via the equitable "common fund" doctrine, even though the insurer derived no benefit from the "fund"
May 23, 2011
South Carolina and Hawai’i have now joined Colorado and Arkansas as two of four states that have passed legislation aimed at broadening the definition of ''occurrence'' under commercial general liability (CGL) policies as it relates to construction defect claims.
June 11, 2010
Commercial General Liability: Hawai’i State Court Holds that Construction Defect Claims Do Not Constitute an “Occurrence” - Insurance Coverage Alert! - As predicted by the U.S. District Court in Hawai’i and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court in several cases decided in the past 15 years, the Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawai’i recently held that construction defect claims do not constitute an “occurrence” under a commercial general liability (“CGL”) policy. Group Builders Inc. and Tradewind Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Admiral Ins. Co., 2010 Haw.App. LEXIS 234 (May 19, 2010).
April 14, 2010
Washington Court Enforces 'Anti-Stacking' Provision to Prevent Application of Multiple Policies for Continuing Water Damage - Insurance Coverage Alert! - On April 12, 2010, the Washington Court of Appeals
Division One decided Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s
London v. Valiant Ins. Co., --- P.3d ----, 2010 WL
1427571 (Wash., Apr. 12, 2010), holding that Zurich’s antistacking provision, which limited an insured’s recovery to one policy limit per “occurrence” when the insured held two
or more Zurich policies,
February 21, 2010
Winter 2010 - Insurance Coverage Observer -
October 05, 2009
Washington Court of Appeals Affirms Trial Court Ruling: Stipulated Judgment of $8.75 Million is Unreasonable - Insurance Coverage Alert! - In Water’s Edge Homeowners Ass’n v. Water’s Edge Associates, et al., ---P.3d ---, (September 29, 2009), the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling that a settlement consisting of a stipulated judgment of $8.75 million against an insured developer and an insured property manager and in favor of a plaintiff condominium association was unreasonable, after the insurers of the developer and property manager intervened.
January 29, 2009
In this issue, we identify key coverage developments from the year 2008. We summarize recent court decisions dealing with coverage for toxic torts, environmental losses, construction defect and property losses. We also address new decisions in the areas of insolvency and reinsurance.
October 28, 2008
Washington Supreme Court Holds Insurers Bound by Settlement Approved at Reasonableness Hearing Where Coverage Turns Upon Same Facts or Law at Issue in Underlying Dispute - Insurance Coverage Alert! -
September 09, 2008
Washington Supreme Court Holds 'Selective Tender' Rule Applies to Bar Equitable Contribution Claims Between Insurers, but 'Late Tender' Rule Applies to Permit Subrogation Claims by One Insurer Against Another - Insurance Coverage Alert! -
August 30, 2008
We take pride at Cozen O’Connor in addressing new developments that will affect our clients. In this issue, we include a special report on two new decisions from New Jersey on bad faith in the UM/UIM context.
July 11, 2008
Washington State Court of Appeals Holds Reasonableness Hearing in Contract Action Not Subject to Same Factors as Reasonableness Hearing in Tort Action - Insurance Coverage Alert! -
July 11, 2008
Washington Appellate Court Concludes SIR is Not "Insurance" in Subrogation Context and Defense Costs Paid By the Insured Concurrently Satisfy SIRS in Successive Primary Policies - Insurance Coverage Alert! -
June 23, 2008
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Holds Idaho Tort Claim Act Endorsement Does Not Reduce Original Policy Limits - Insurance Coverage Alert! - The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found an insurer’s Idaho Tort Claim Act Endorsement
ambiguous, to the extent it attempted to incorporate a reduced liability limit found in the state’s Act. In Ferguson v. Coregis Ins. Co., --- P.3d ----, 2008 WL2246535 (June 3, 2008), plaintiff John Ferguson filed an action on behalf of his son seeking a declaratory judgment as to the general liability limit of an insurance policy (“the Policy”) sold to the
April 25, 2008
Washington Court of Appeals Upholds Insolvency Provisions in Excess Policy - Insurance Coverage Alert! - In Polygon Northwest Co. v. American Nat. Fire Ins. Co., --- P.3d ----, 2008 WL 921390
(April 7, 2008), the Washington Court of Appeals, Division I, held that: (1) an excess
insurer’s indemnity obligation does not commence until the insured’s liability exceeds the
limits of all underlying insurance, including the limits of an insolvent primary insurer’s
policy; (2) attorney’s fees do not constitute “costs taxed against the insured,”
March 11, 2008
Washington Default Order Set Aside in Part Because Insurer Had Strong Defenses.... - Insurance Coverage Alert! - In Sacotte Construction, Inc. v. National Fire & Marine Insurance Company et al., 2008 WL 509169 (February 25, 2008) the Washington Court of Appeals held that an attorney's telephone call to opposing counsel, which was acknowledged in two contemporaneous e-mails, constituted substantial compliance with appearance
requirements such that the opposing party was required to provide actual notice of its
motion for default.
February 26, 2008
In this issue, we consider a number of emerging issues and also identify key developments in coverage in 2007. We summarize new court decisions dealing with toxic torts, environmental coverage, insolvency and regulatory issues, and construction defect. We feature a key construction defect coverage case in Illinois with important implications. We address global warming in the context of directors with officers liability coverage. Finally, we discuss the emerging areas of fax blast and food contamination, and the impact of the reauthorization of TRIA.
January 30, 2008
Oregon Supreme Court Rules Tort Reform Cap As Applied to Public Employees is Unconstitutional - Insurance Coverage Alert! - The Oregon Supreme Court recently held that a plaintiff could pursue liability claims
against individual public employees of public entities. The Court further stated that
the damages cap in the Oregon Tort Claims Act (OTCA) violated the Remedy Clause
of the Oregon Constitution. Jordaan Michael Clarke v. Oregon Health Sciences
University, No. SC S053868, (Ore. Sup., December 28, 2007).
October 22, 2007
Washington Supreme Court Concludes That Insurer Acted In Bad Faith Via Subpoena And Ex Parte Communications To An Arbitrator - Insurance Coverage Alert - The Washington Supreme Court, sitting en banc, recently held that an insurance
company acted in bad faith by issuing a subpoena to and engaging in ex parte
communications with an arbitrator. The Court further stated that the insurer did not
rebut the resulting presumption of harm to the insured and that the insurer had not