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”
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 “advertising injury” coverage in commercial liability insurance policies typically extends to lawsuits alleging product disparagement. But is there coverage if your company’s advertisement does not specifically mention a competitor’s product by name? A recent judicial decision suggests that the answer is yes.
JAR Laboratories LLC v. Great American E&S Insurance Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67516 (N.D. Ill. May 10, 2013), addressed whether an insurance company had a duty to defend its policyholder, the manufacturer of an over-the-counter pain relief patch, against a lawsuit brought by a distributor of a prescription pain relief patch. The issue turned on whether the allegations in the distributor’s complaint fell within the scope of the policy’s coverage for “personal and advertising injuries” resulting from the publication of material that “disparages a person’s or organization’s goods, products, or services.” Id. at *12 (quotation marks omitted). Continue reading “Seeking Insurance Coverage for a Product Disparagement Claim”
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 wheels of justice can turn slowly. This is especially true in litigation about insurance coverage. For large insurance coverage actions such as those seeking insurance for asbestos claims or environmental claims, the case can very well go on for years and years. There is no incentive for an insurance company to shorten that time period because it is holding onto the money while the litigation continues. A cash flow analysis generally shows that it is in the insurance companies’ interest to have the case continue because the amount insurance companies are making on the money they are holding is greater than the cost of their continuing the litigation. We often see insurance companies’ answers to the policyholder’s complaint asserting anywhere from 30 to 50 affirmative defenses. Many of these defenses have little or no basis, but they serve to complicate the action and make it last longer.
The policyholders’ goal should be to get the case to trial. Too often it seems that insurance companies have little interest in settling, except at a deep discount, until the case is close to trial. This is consistent with the insurance companies wanting to hold the money for a longer amount of time. By pushing the case to trial, the policyholder is encouraging the insurance company to settle at a reasonable amount. If the insurance company does not settle, then the policyholder will still have its claim resolved at trial. Continue reading “Keep Your Insurer’s Feet to the Fire to Get Paid”