Although we treat insurance coverage cases as contract disputes, I am not altogether convinced that the law of contracts really is the animating principle behind insurance coverage decisions. Certainly, at the very least, one can’t take a gander at a standard contracts hornbook (that is lawyer talk for a book that provides a readers digest type summary of an entire legal subject) and really have any idea from it how to resolve an insurance coverage dispute. At a minimum, it is certainly the case that only by adding quasi-contractual principles – such as the reasonable expectations doctrine – to the traditional rules of contract law that the contract law regime can be seen as explaining the outcome of insurance coverage cases.
Whatever the case may be on that front, one of my favorite blogs, covering decisions out of the First Circuit, has the story of a recent decision from the First Circuit that applies the old law school contracts class chestnut of mutual mistake to an insurance coverage dispute. The post and the case are interesting reading, for those of us who like either contract law or insurance coverage, or worse yet, like me, both.