The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District recently held that a nurse’s professional liability insurer was not liable for contribution to her employer’s professional liability insurer after the latter settled a wrongful death claim involving the nurse. Wentzville Park Associates v. American Cas. Ins. Co. of Reading, PA, No. ED 90412 (Mo.App. E.D. September 2, 2008).

A patient in a nursing home died after she was left unsupervised by her nurse and fell down stairs. The family of the patient brought a wrongful death claim and the nursing home’s professional liability insurer settled the claim.

Thereafter, the nursing home’s insurer brought an equitable contribution claim against the nurse’s own professional liability insurer. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the nurse’s liability insurer based on the language of the policies’ other insurance clauses.

The state Court of Appeals affirmed. Because both policies provided coverage for the nurse for injuries caused by a medical incident relating to any act or omission in the furnishing of professional services, the court looked to the policies’ other insurance clauses. The court held that because the nursing home’s policy contained an “excess” other insurance clause, and the nurse’s policy contained a “no liability” other insurance clause, and both policies were primary policies, the nurse’s insurer was not liable for the loss and the nursing home’s insurer is not entitled to equitable contribution.

The court also held that an other insurance clause found in the “Combined Special Provisions Liability Insurance” section of the nursing home’s policy should not be given effect because to do so would have rendered the other insurance clause found in the policy meaningless.

The opinion is available here.