John A. Gibbons
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”
Justin F. Lavella
“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.
Unfortunately, as many policyholders’ mass tort liabilities—such as asbestos and environmental claims—have begun to implicate higher-level excess policies, many of the above expectations have not only gone unsatisfied but have come under attack by increasingly obstructionist excess insurers. For some policyholders, this has resulted in a second generation of coverage litigation over liabilities and coverage issues long thought to have been resolved. Continue reading ““Common Sense” Prevails: Court Rejects Excess Insurer’s Position that Defense Costs Coverage Is Dependent on Payment of Damages”
An important issue that frequently arises in connection with devastating storms and other natural disasters is determining whether peril-specific exclusions, deductibles, or sub-limits found in commercial property insurance policies apply to claims for losses that have more than one contributing cause of loss. For example, Superstorm Sandy damaged many businesses and homes with a combination of high winds, severe rain, and flooding. Some property insurance policies may exclude coverage for flood losses and cover wind losses. Substantial debate has arisen over the years about the appropriate causation test and application of that test to multi-peril losses. Continue reading “Bills Propose to Prohibit Insurers from Using Anti-Concurrent Causation Clauses in New York”
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”
On April 4, 2013, I spoke at the @NYLawJournal and @JAMSADR event “Commercial Insurance Claims Arising from Super Storm Sandy: Is There a ‘New Normal’?” I was the policyholder attorney voice on the second panel, which focused its discussion on “Quantum: Provisions & Proof” in connection with Sandy claims.
The moderator began our panel discussion by asking me the following question:
Jared, based on what you have seen to date, what do you expect will be the most contentious valuation issue arising from Sandy claims? Continue reading “Valuing Commercial Insurance Claims Arising from Superstorm Sandy”
Aaron R. Lancaster
Over the past few years, State Attorneys General (AGs) have grown increasingly active in a variety of areas not traditionally within their domain. One of the areas in which AGs have increased their attention is data privacy. Notably, in the past year AGs have added data privacy enforcement units, worked with their legislatures to expand their data privacy enforcement capabilities, and have brought high-profile investigations and enforcement matters on data privacy issues. As a result of this increased activity, companies should closely scrutinize their insurance portfolios to ensure that they are covered for any such investigations and enforcement activity, and, if not, work with insurance brokers to consider obtaining insurance to address these risks. Continue reading “State Attorneys General Increasingly Concerned with Data Privacy”
No one ever wants to see a tragedy, and no one wants to see injuries and loss of life such as we are seeing in the wake of Wednesday’s massive explosion at West Fertilizer Co. in central Texas. Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones or suffered injury or destruction of property. While insurance is of no solace in these circumstances, it can be a key factor in recovery from such disasters. Policyholders must act promptly to protect their rights and to obtain the full extent of their coverage.
Companies whose business includes large-scale industrial operations should make sure that they have appropriate liability insurance to cover claims brought by those alleged injured from their operations. However, they also should make sure that they have the following types of insurance coverage, which may be crucial not only to their recovery, but also to better ensure jobs for their employees. Continue reading “After Large-Scale Disaster, Serious Insurance Issues Loom for Texas Fertilizer Plant”
James S. Carter
Many companies at this time of year are preparing to renew their product liability coverage, which is supposed to provide security for products lawsuits. The insurance policy that a company is considering for its products liability coverage, however, may leave the amount of coverage for product liability losses up to chance because of an issue that arises in insurance coverage litigation, particularly those involving product liability claims, known as the number of “occurrences.” Simply put, the number-of-occurrences issue asks whether product liability claims arise from one occurrence or more than one occurrence. Because the amount of coverage or any deductible is typically stated as a dollar amount “per occurrence,” the answer to that question can leave a policyholder with an abundance of coverage, or leave it essentially self-insured.
The number-of-occurrences issue can have a particularly profound effect on insurance coverage in the product liability context because of the potential for numerous claims. If, for instance, a policy has a per-occurrence deductible, and each product liability claim is deemed to be a separate occurrence, the total amount of deductibles could exceed the total amount of coverage. Alternatively, if product liability claims are grouped together as one occurrence, then only one deductible would have to be paid, thus preserving coverage. Continue reading “Renewing Product Liability Coverage? Consider the Number of Occurrences”
Erin L. Webb
Two video game publishers have recently been targets of lawsuits alleging that their video game and box art infringed upon tattoo artists’ copyrights. Electronic Arts (EA) has been sued over the 2004 title NFL Street, with star athlete Ricky Williams — and his tattoo — prominently figured on the front of the box. The tattoo artist alleges that EA did so without his permission and in infringement of his copyright to the tattoo design. Another artist sued THQ, publisher of UFC Undisputed 3, alleging that the in-game model of Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Carlos Condit used a copyrighted tattoo design without permission. These types of lawsuits may give rise to coverage under the target companies’ liability insurance policies, which could help to defray the costs of defending against those lawsuits and potentially the costs of any resulting liability or settlement.
Though policy wordings may differ, in general, most comprehensive general liability (CGL) policies cover “personal and advertising injury liability.” If the policyholder company is sued, and the claims involve “advertising injury” as defined by the policy, the policyholder is potentially entitled to a defense and indemnity for any liability. Though some policies contain exclusions for copyright infringement, an exception to that exclusion may grant coverage back for “infringement . . . in your ‘advertisement’, of copyright, trade dress or slogan.” Continue reading “Potential Insurance Coverage for Lawsuits Against Video Game Publishers Alleging Copyright Infringement of Celebrity Tattoo Art”
I presented at the @SeminarGroup conference in Santa Barbara, California on February 8, 2013 about insuring hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) projects.
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”