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”
Frank M. Kaplan
There are certain immutable truths. For example, we know that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, that the earth is not flat, that coverage grants in an insurance policy are to be interpreted broadly consistent with the insured’s reasonable expectations, and that policy exclusions are to be interpreted narrowly. The latter two, which together with others, are long-held canons of insurance policy interpretation protecting insureds that appear in thousands of court decisions and are not subject to reasonable dispute by lawyers on either side of the insurance coverage bar.
So what happens when an insurer attempts to alter these and other fundamental, bedrock principles of policy interpretation by unilaterally altering them in a form, non-manuscript insurance policy? Must a court abandon decades of settled jurisprudence in favor of policy language that seeks just that result? The answer should be “no.” Continue reading “Unenforceable “Policy Interpretation” Provision”
Amy J. Spencer
With the “opioid epidemic” at an all-time high—and the resulting news coverage and public awareness also at an all-time high—now is the time for pharmaceutical companies, pharmacists, hospitals, doctors, first responders, and employers to review their professional liability and general liability insurance policies and any other potentially applicable policies such as products liability and directors and officers (“D&O”) insurance. Continue reading “Insurance Coverage for the Opioid Crisis”
On December 1, the Florida Supreme Court held that in the first party context where concurrent perils result in a loss, the concurrent cause doctrine applies to determine coverage.
Background: The case in front of the Florida Supreme Court involved two parties: homeowner John Sebo, who purchased his Naples home in 2005, and his insurer, American Home Assurance Co., or AHAC. The applicable insurance policy insured against “all risks” and provided additional coverage for the loss of use of Sebo’s home. Continue reading “Concurrent Cause Doctrine: The Most Efficient Approach?”
Charrise L. Alexander
Companies like Airbnb and Uber are considered pioneers in this new era of the “sharing economy.” This innovative way of doing business, allowing individuals to commercialize what ordinarily is for personal use, has created an entirely new marketplace in many cities around the world. However, as with most emerging markets there are new and unexpected risks. Airbnb, Uber, and other new companies who operate in these emerging markets are challenged to respond to change and manage these unforeseen risks quickly. Airbnb is currently receiving pressure from numerous states to be more proactive in managing and curing potential risks.
Of late, Airbnb has been in the headlines due to a devastating death at a rental in Texas. Many questions are being asked. One of the biggest is, “Who is responsible for keeping renters safe?” And whoever that is, do they have adequate insurance coverage? Continue reading “The Sharing Economy: Are You Covered If Something Goes Wrong?”
James S. Carter
One of the most common questions that in-house counsel may have for coverage counsel is, “What is the effect of providing late notice of an insurance claim?” The answer is that it depends on which state’s law applies to the insurance policy. A minority of states view notice as a condition precedent to coverage, and unexcused or unreasonably late notice voids coverage. The majority of states, however, have adopted the notice-prejudice rule, which is one of the most beneficial rules to policyholders. Rooted in equity and contract principles, it holds that untimely notice does not waive coverage unless the insurance carrier has been materially prejudiced by the delay. But a state’s adoption of the notice-prejudice rule is usually not the end of the story. As the notice-prejudice rule has gained prominence, insurers have shifted strategy from arguing against the adoption of the notice-prejudice rule to urging courts to carve out exceptions to the rule in which the insurer is deemed to suffer prejudice as a matter of law. This strategy, if successful, could have the effect of eroding the protection that the notice-prejudice rule affords policyholders. At a minimum, it will foster uncertainty among policyholders as to whether the notice-prejudice rule will apply. Continue reading “What Happens If Your Company Gives Late Notice of a Claim to Its Insurer? Hint: Insurers Should Not Make Policyholders Guess”
Erin L. Webb
More information has come to light about the data breach affecting Target, and it highlights the importance of “additional insured” coverage, as well as the need for companies to recognize that sophisticated cyberattacks can affect any company, not just those in the computer or technology industries. Blogger Brian Krebs reports that the theft of credentials from a heating and cooling (HVAC) company may be linked to the Target breach.
How could it happen? No details have yet been publicly confirmed, but it is possible that the HVAC company had access to Target’s network so that it could remotely monitor heating and cooling efficiency at multiple Target locations. If Target’s electronic systems were linked – if one was accessible via another – a path for a hacker from HVAC information to credit card processing may have been possible. Continue reading “Target Data Breach Part 2: The Additional Insured”
On February 11, 2014, John Heintz and I spoke on a panel at the @Hospitality_Law 2014 Conference discussing maximizing coverage for large property and business interruption claims. We presented a hypothetical scenario in which Acme Hospitality is a full service Real Estate company that owns several hotels, including one in Galveston, Texas that a hurricane devastated to the point of total loss and a second in Houston, Texas that the same hurricane impacted with minimal physical damage and significant financial losses. One interesting fact presented was that a sports stadium located nearby the Houston hotel suffered major roof damage and is expected to be closed for six months. The Houston hotel typically sells out for every home game played at the sports stadium and other live events. We explored the question of whether the Houston hotel is entitled to coverage for lost business income resulting from the stadium’s closure. Continue reading “Hospitality Law Conference 2014: Importance of Business Income From Dependent Properties Coverage”
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”
Insurance-related issues are a critical aspect of any merger or acquisition and should be addressed early in the deal process. The insurance-related issues that may arise in deal contexts are too many to address here, but companies entering a potential deal should keep the following considerations in mind.
Evaluate liabilities, exposures, and insurance program. Evaluating a target company’s insurance program frequently sheds light on the company’s overall operations and quality of the company being purchased. A target company that presents a poor insurance risk relative to its loss history may also be a poor business risk. Accordingly, a party to a potential deal will be well-served to evaluate the target company’s operations to determine current liabilities and exposure to loss, and thoroughly examine the target company’s insurance portfolio to determine if existing insurance is likely to cover the liabilities. The analysis may also inform decisions regarding the need for future insurance purchases to fill any gaps in coverage for potential loss exposures. To conduct these evaluations and examinations, the company and its insurance coverage counsel should obtain the target company’s current and historical insurance policies, any coverage charts that may exist, pleadings from any litigation in which the target is involved, and loss history reports. Also, if possible, interviewing the target company’s internal legal and risk management teams and outside insurance coverage counsel frequently provides an efficient means to obtaining key information and answering questions. Continue reading “Insurance Implications for M&A Deals”