Terminating the Duty to Defend: Can the Insurer Extinguish the Duty by Settling Less Than All Claims?

Advocating the Defense Obligation From Insurer and Policyholder Perspectives

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will discuss the parameters within which an insurer can settle less than all claims or suits with the plaintiff and thereby end its duty to defend. The panel will outline which jurisdictions allow such settlements and which do not, provide strategies, and analyze risks for both the insurer and the policyholder.


The insurer's duty to defend ends when the policy limits are exhausted by settlement or payment of a judgment. But can the insurer terminate its defense obligation short of settlement of all claims or all suits?

The insurer's ability to settle less than all claims or with less than all claimants is limited only by its duty to act in good faith. The parameters within which an insurer can terminate its duty to defend also varies among jurisdictions. Thus, insurers must be careful to avoid exposure to a claim of bad faith when reaching such settlements.

Listen as our authoritative panel of insurance practitioners analyzes the ability of the insurer to terminate its duty to defend by settling less than all claims and suits by tendering the policy limits in a settlement with the plaintiff. The panel will examine the rationale employed by courts on this issue and strategies and risks for insurers and policyholders.



  1. Overview of the insurer's duty to defend
  2. Settlement with plaintiff by paying policy limits
  3. Settlement of less than all suits or claims against the insured
  4. Bad faith risks to insurers
  5. Case law developments


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What are the parameters within which an insurer can terminate its duty to defend by settling less than all claims or suits with the plaintiff?
  • When could the insurer's settlement with the plaintiff to terminate its defense duty trigger a claim for bad faith?
  • Does a non-settling claimant have a cause of action when the settlement exhausts coverage otherwise available?


Chambers, Christine
Christine W. Chambers

Hinshaw & Culbertson

Ms. Chambers represents clients in a broad range of insurance, personal injury, and property damage matters. Her...  |  Read More

Jones, Suzanne
Suzanne L. Jones

Hinshaw & Culbertson

Ms. Jones focuses her litigation practice on representing insurance companies in complex first- and third-party...  |  Read More

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