Earlier this month, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld a decision allowing Cooper Industries LLC (“Cooper”) access to insurance policies received through a series of mergers and acquisitions (“M&As”), even though the transfer of assets language in the relevant bill of sale did not specifically reference the transfer of insurance rights. Cooper was thus afforded liability coverage for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) action seeking substantial cleanup costs.
Cooper’s predecessor, McGraw-Edison Co. (“McGraw”), previously obtained a variety of liability insurance policies from various insurers throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. At issue in the case was whether McGraw’s right to these policies was properly transferred, through a series of corporate transactions, such that Cooper could now access them for the EPA claim. The lower court found the relevant bill of sale language to be ambiguous and relied on deposition testimony from employees to find, among other things, that all assets and liabilities were meant to be transferred, including insurance rights. Insurers appealed. Continue reading “Appellate Division Finds Coverage for EPA Claim through Company’s Historic Mergers and Acquisitions, Even Though the Bill of Sale Did Not Specifically Reference the Transfer of Insurance Rights”
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”
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
A federal court of appeals and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently made advances toward a national disposal site for spent nuclear fuel. My recent Law360 column analyzes the potential impact of an eventual spent nuclear fuel disposal site on insurance coverage for nuclear plant owners. Shipping spent nuclear fuel offsite for disposal presents very different risks from those associated with storing the spent fuel onsite, which is the situation at many nuclear power plants today.
The D.C. Circuit recently held that the U.S. government may not collect any more fees from nuclear plant owners under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act until it finalizes a disposal solution for spent fuel. Nat’l Ass’n of Regulatory Util. Comm’rs v. U.S. Dep’t of Energy, Nos. 11-1066, 11-1068, 2013 WL 6064021 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 19, 2013). Additionally, the NRC directed its staff last month to “complete and issue the Safety Evaluation Report” on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) application for consideration of the Yucca Mountain site as a disposal facility. In the Matter of U.S. Dep’t of Energy (High-Level Waste Repository), No. 63-001, __ N.R.C.___, slip op. at 23 (Nov. 18, 2013). Continue reading “Disposal Site for Spent Nuclear Fuel Could Change the Insurance Picture for Nuclear Plant Owners”
In a September 24, 2013 ruling, the New Jersey Supreme Court addressed whether liability insurers covering a long-tail environmental contamination loss may seek contribution from the New Jersey Property-Liability Insurance Guaranty Association (“NJPLIGA”) for the Carter-Wallace shares of insolvent insurers. Perhaps most important to insureds, the court rejected the position that the insured bears the burden of the insolvent insurer’s Carter-Wallace allocated payment obligation to the extent NJPLIGA was not required to pay. Instead, the payment burden rests solely with solvent insurers on the risk.
Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. New Jersey Property-Liability Insurance Guaranty Assoc. involved two insurers (Farmers Mutual and Newark Insurance Co.) that insured properties that suffered soil and groundwater contamination caused by underground storage tank leaks. Farmers Mutual paid all of the remediation costs and, after Newark was deemed insolvent in 2007, sued NJPLIGA for contribution seeking to recover Newark’s Carter-Wallace share of the remediation costs. Continue reading “N.J. Supremes: Insureds Are Not Obligated to Pay an Insolvent Insurer’s Carter-Wallace Allocated Payment Obligation Before Accessing NJPLIGA’s Statutory Benefits”
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”
The natural gas and oil extraction and production technique known as fracking is a hot-button issue in today’s political landscape and in the media. Estimates suggest that more than a quarter of the United States’ natural gas supply is derived from shale bed fracking. As evidenced by the recent Presidential campaigns, many Americans view fracking as an economic catalyst that may create jobs domestically and help reduce the country’s reliance on foreign energy supplies. While this extraction and production technique has been utilized in the United States since the 1940s, it has recently gained additional attention from environmental groups claiming environmental harm as the extraction moves into the more densely populated areas surrounding the natural-gas rich Marcellus Shale in the northeast and the huge Monterey shale that lies under California’s Central Valley at San Benito and Monterey counties. Continue reading “Insurance Coverage for Fracking Claims”