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”
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?
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 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.