John E. Heintz
In April 1977, a few weeks before I began practicing law, senior claims executives of eighteen liability insurance companies met to discuss the insurance implications of asbestos bodily injury claims. A majority of those at the meeting concluded:
“. . . that coverage existed for each carrier throughout the period of time the asbestosis condition developed, i.e. from the first exposure through the discovery and diagnosis. The majority also contended that each carrier on risk during any part of that period could be fully responsible for the cost of defense and loss.” Continue reading “Asbestos Coverage: A Never Ending Story”
John E. Heintz and Kyle P. Brinkman
Bankruptcy of the insured does not relieve an insurer of its obligations under its insurance policy, including to pay covered liability claims held by creditors of the bankruptcy estate. Generally, for a creditor to obtain a distribution from the estate, the creditor must file a timely “proof of claim” in the bankruptcy proceeding, and the claim must be “allowed” by the bankruptcy court. Because a debtor’s assets are typically insufficient to compensate all creditors for the full allowed value of their claims, creditors usually are paid only a fraction of the dollar value allowed. Disputes have, as a result, sometimes arisen between debtor insureds or their successors on the one hand, and their insurers on the other, over whether the insurer is obligated to pay the allowed value of an insured claim (“pay-as-allowed”), or instead only the fractional amount the creditor actually would receive from the estate if there were no insurance coverage (“pay-as-paid”). Continue reading “What’s the Insured Value of an Allowed Bankruptcy Claim? Pay-as-Allowed, Pay-as-Paid, and a Novel Variation”
The Delaware Supreme Court certified an allocation question to the New York Court of Appeals that could have a major impact on policyholders’ recoveries for multi-year claims. A multi-year claim is one where the damages extend over a number of policy years, such as environmental claims or asbestos claims.
The certified question is:
Under New York law, is the proper method of allocation to be used all sums or pro rata when there are non-cumulation and prior insurance provisions?
Policyholders whose policies are governed by New York law should closely follow this case because it could drastically impact the amount they can recover. Continue reading “Delaware Supreme Court Sends Allocation Question to New York Court of Appeals”
Erin L. Webb
Exelon Corp., the largest United States nuclear operator, announced recently that it would agree to purchase Pepco Holdings, Inc. for $6.8 billion in cash. Pepco no longer generates its own power, but serves utility customers from Washington, D.C. to New Jersey. Bloomberg reports that this merger, if approved, would create the largest electric and natural gas utility in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The merger will require approval by both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the public service commissions in the relevant states and the District of Columbia. It will also need to pass antitrust review by either the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission. Lawyers, consultants, and accountants for both companies will undoubtedly conduct extensive diligence reviews. Continue reading “Exelon-Pepco Merger Highlights Importance of Insurance Coverage Analysis in Mergers and Acquisitions”
John A. Gibbons
The Second Circuit’s June 4, 2013 decision in Ali v. Federal Insurance Co. addresses when and how a policyholder may recover from excess liability insurance policies for future liabilities when underlying insurers are insolvent. (Opinion linked here). A number of insurer-leaning commentators have cast the case as a rethinking of Zeig v. Massachusetts Bonding & Insurance Co., 23 F.2d 665 (2d Cir. 1928), the seminal Second Circuit decision authored by Judge Augustus Hand, which first established the principle that policyholders could recover against excess insurance policies even if the policyholder did not collect the full limits of underlying insurance policies. In Zeig, the Second Circuit rejected an excess insurer’s attempt to walk away from its insurance obligations simply because Mr. Zeig settled his claim against a separate insurance company. Zeig established the principle, recognized by numerous courts since, that a policyholder’s settlement with one insurer does not forfeit the policyholder’s rights against other insurers.
The characterization that the Second Circuit has now called Zeig’s common-sense, and widely recognized principle into question, however, seriously misreads the decision in Ali. To understand Ali—what it does and does not hold—requires an understanding of the issues that were actually ruled on by the district court and affirmed by the Second Circuit. Continue reading “The Second Circuit’s Ali Decision Supports Zeig on Exhaustion of Insurance”
Justin F. Lavella
“The duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify.” For many policyholders, this oft-repeated maxim of insurance law embodies a variety of different expectations. The first and foremost expectation is that policyholders are entitled to a defense from their insurer even if coverage for future liability may be in doubt. A second common expectation is that a policyholder’s defense costs will be paid by its insurers as those costs are incurred. A third expectation is that a judicial decision obligating a primary carrier to pay defense costs will ensure that excess insurers also are obligated to pay any unreimbursed defense costs once the primary policy is exhausted.
Unfortunately, as many policyholders’ mass tort liabilities—such as asbestos and environmental claims—have begun to implicate higher-level excess policies, many of the above expectations have not only gone unsatisfied but have come under attack by increasingly obstructionist excess insurers. For some policyholders, this has resulted in a second generation of coverage litigation over liabilities and coverage issues long thought to have been resolved. Continue reading ““Common Sense” Prevails: Court Rejects Excess Insurer’s Position that Defense Costs Coverage Is Dependent on Payment of Damages”