A trial team and I were asked recently whether we would prefer to postpone an in-person jury trial several months or conduct the trial now via Zoom. We responded with a resounding, “in person.”
Not a single one of us is immune to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve all suffered loss. Some much more tragic and permanent than others, but no one can honestly say that her or his life is unchanged. Some things that seemed normal earlier this year and before then may never go back to the way they were. Will we fly cross-country to conduct a four-hour deposition in person, even when it is safe to do so? Maybe; depends on the witness. Will we for an in-person meeting with colleagues? Maybe not.
While attorneys are proving every day that many parts of our profession can be performed remotely, we must closely guard the sanctity of jury trials from the coronavirus pandemic. Criminal and civil jury trials are the backbone of the American system of justice; our ultimate safeguard of civil liberties. The American jury trial is a constitutional right. I’m all for adapting to the present situation. But the thought of a “virtual” trial by jury is a bridge too far—and presents a serious risk of eroding one of the most fundamental American rights. Continue reading “Don’t Let Jury Trials Vanish Further Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic”
Ian Ascher and Jared Zola
The insurance market has proven to be a difficult environment for buyers in 2019. The long tenure of the soft insurance market cycle is changing, and is presenting challenges with pricing, capacity, and sustainability of favorable coverage terms. Coming out of difficult natural catastrophe years in 2017 and 2018, the property insurance market took a sharp turn to protect insurers’ bottom lines. While hardening of the property insurance market was expected, the broader casualty market has taken this opportunity to drive corrective action on their portfolios as well, leaving insurance buyers with little leverage.
How Insurers Are Reacting to the Market Shift
Insurers are approaching the market shift with different strategies, some focused on rate increases, while others are focused on restricting terms, or both. While individual loss experience still plays a role in renewal outcomes, there appears to be more of a portfolio-level push on rate and terms regardless of individual quality of risk factors for any given policyholder. In this environment, stricter control over capacity deployment leads to less competition, which may force the buyer into tough decisions regarding what utility insurance provides for its organization. The guarantee of comprehensive coverage at a fair price becomes harder to balance in a setting where definitively having both is less than certain. Continue reading “Pay Attention to Policy Language in a Hardening Insurance Market”
Jared Zola and Daniel R. Belzil
Almost two years after Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana, Central America, and several Caribbean islands, the coverage issues arising out of it are far from resolved. The court decisions addressing these coverage issues have not all been positive from the insured’s perspective. In particular, one recent decision in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Pan Am Equities, Inc. v. Lexington Insurance Company, No. H-18-2937 (May 2, 2019) (“Pan Am Equities”), should give insureds in Texas and elsewhere pause heading into the 2019 Hurricane Season.
The Dispute—Which Deductible Applies?
The insured in that case owned several commercial properties in Houston, including an apartment building and parking garage that sustained more than $6.7 million in flood damage as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Its properties were insured by a commercial property insurance policy that provided “Flood” coverages as well as coverages for loss caused by the peril of “Windstorm and Hail.” Continue reading “Hurricane Harvey Insurance Claim Gets Twisted”
Jared Zola, Linda Kornfeld, John E. Heintz, and Alan Rubin
Like the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season before it, the 2018 season brought devastating storms to the United States. A prime example: One of the most powerful hurricanes on record to hit Florida’s Panhandle wreaked havoc in October 2018 and left a trail of devastation in its wake as it weakened to tropical storm status but still brought large-scale destruction to southeastern states.
Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10 approximately 20 miles southeast of Panama City, Florida, with biblical 155 mph sustained winds, violent waves, and heavy rain. The extent of the damage in Florida is still being evaluated, but it is extensive to the naked eye. Two hospitals were evacuated. Many homes were destroyed, power lines were downed, cars and trucks overturned and destroyed.
It took weeks before roads were cleared and electricity was fully restored. Even once businesses reopened, the storm’s destruction prevented employees from traveling to work. In addition, municipalities reported decreased tax revenues from business closures. The economic impact of storm-related losses for businesses and municipalities combined will be significant. Continue reading “Insurance Coverage for Hurricanes: Insurers May Dispute “Causation””
An issue frequently raised in coverage disputes involving claims-made liability insurance policies is determining whether certain pre-lawsuit events or disputes constitute a “claim” sufficient to trigger coverage.
Unlike occurrence-based liability policies that respond in the policy year or years during which the coverage-triggering event occurred (e.g., the years in which a person sustained injury in an asbestos bodily injury claim), a claims-made liability insurance policy is triggered upon the insured’s receipt of a claim. Upon an insured providing notice of a claim, its insurers may dispute whether the notice-triggering event constitutes a “claim” at all. Continue reading “Federal Court Says Subpoena Is a “Claim” Triggering Insurance Coverage”
Jared Zola and James R. Murray
The last several weeks have brought seemingly unending news detailing allegations of sexual impropriety against politicians, celebrities, the news media, and other public figures. As a wave of victims march forward and social movements such as the #MeToo silence breakers grow, there are no signs that sexual harassment claims will subside. There is little doubt that companies and individuals across all industries have and will continue to see an increasing share of similar charges. As companies continue to address this crisis and attempt to protect their brand reputation from tarnishing, they may find some economic relief from their Employment Practices Liability Insurance (“EPLI”) coverage. Continue reading “Insurance Coverage for Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims”
Jared Zola, John D. Heintz, and Justin F. Lavella
Insurance for Property Damage and Business Interruption Losses
Businesses and communities throughout Texas and the Gulf Coast are bracing for the impact of Hurricane Harvey that is expected to wreak havoc this weekend. Harvey is unique because it quickly and unexpectedly transformed from what was predicted to be a smaller-scale storm to a Category 2 hurricane—and may be upgraded to Category 3 before it makes landfall. This transformation has left many major businesses and facilities in the storm’s expected path with significantly less time to prepare, and in some cases shutdown operation, than would ordinarily be expected. Continue reading “Insurance Recovery for Losses Related to Hurricane Harvey”
James Carter, Omid Safa, and Jared Zola
At the beginning of 2017, many publications predicted that ransomware would be one of the most significant cyber threats of the year. The year is not even half over and that prediction appears to be coming true.
On Friday, May 12, 2017, tens of thousands of organizations and companies across the world fell victim to a virulent form of ransomware known as “WannaCry.” The global event has been recognized as one of the largest cyberattacks ever. Continue reading “Ransomware and Cyberinsurance”
Omid Safa, James S. Carter, and Jared Zola
This blog post is Part Two of our blog series and highlights several strategies for maximizing the value of a cyber insurance purchase. Part One of the blog series, highlighted the need for an organization to reevaluate its insurance coverage as part of a comprehensive strategy for addressing emerging cyber risks and outlined several ‘‘big picture’’ considerations relevant to any organization contemplating a cyber insurance purchase. This second part focuses on several strategies to consider when negotiating a cyber insurance purchase and seeking to customize a policy to align with an organization’s particular business needs. Continue reading “Managing Cyber Risks: Tips for Purchasing Insurance That Works for Your Business (Part 2)”
James S. Carter, Omid Safa, and Jared Zola
More insurers are offering stand-alone cyberinsurance policies than ever before. At the same time, there are very few decisions by courts regarding this relatively new breed of insurance policy. Most of the decisions construing insurance coverage for cyber risks to date involve other types of insurance policies, such as commercial general liability (“CGL”) and commercial crime policies. Although such cases may not involve cyber policies per se, buyers trying to navigate the cyberinsurance market ignore them at their peril. They illustrate the types of cyber incidents that have generated insurance coverage disputes significant enough to be litigated to decision. Familiarity with such cases can help buyers select and negotiate cyber risk policies with wording aimed at minimizing such disputes and increasing the scope and certainty of the coverage available to the policyholder.
Continue reading “Cyberinsurance Buyers Beware! Is the Past Prologue?”