A New York district court has held that an insurer must provide coverage under three excess insurance policies issued in 1970 for defense and cleanup costs incurred by Olin Corporation in remediating environmental contamination at seven sites in Connecticut, Washington, Maryland, Illinois, New York, and Washington. Seven of the remaining sites at issue presented questions of fact for trial, with only one site being dismissed due to lack of coverage.
Two recent decisions addressing allocation of long-tail liabilities demonstrate that resolution of the issue under New York law depends upon the policy language at issue. Judge-made rules on “equity” and “fairness” do not control. As the New York Court of Appeals held on March 27, 2018, in Keyspan Gas East Corp. v. Munich Reinsurance America, Inc., 2018 WL 1472635 (2018), under New York law, “the method of allocation is covered for most by the particular language of the relevant insurance policy.” Both Keyspan and the April 2, 2018 decision in Hopeman Brothers, Inc. v. Continental Casualty Co., No. 16-cv-00187 (E.D. Va. Apr. 2, 2018), by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, illustrate the importance of reviewing insurance policies – both before purchase, to ensure that they contain optimal language for coverage; and after claims arise, to ensure that the policyholder receives the benefit of insurance coverage under “legacy” and all other potentially applicable policies.
Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court agreed to review Montrose Chemical Corporation’s appeal from a September appellate court ruling that rejected Montrose’s preferred “vertical exhaustion” method of exhausting excess-layer policies in favor of a policy-by-policy review to determine which policies are triggered. The California high court’s grant of Montrose’s petition for review is potentially significant in clarifying the appropriate excess policy exhaustion trigger under California law, not to mention in addressing a significant insurer defense in Montrose’s longstanding coverage dispute over environmental insurance coverage, which has been winding its way through California courts for more than 25 years.
Whether a policyholder’s losses are “direct” or “indirect” can be coverage-determinative. Most financial institution bonds exclude “indirect” or “consequential” losses. A recent decision in Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Arch Ins. Co., No. CV C14-0545RSL, 2017 WL 5289547 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 13, 2017) addressed the issue of “direct” versus “indirect” losses in a dispute under a financial institution bond issued by Arch Insurance Company (Arch) to Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu). The court held that WaMu’s losses resulting from its purchase of fraudulent loans were “direct” losses, and that WaMu’s sale and contractual obligation to repurchase the fraudulent loans did not convert its losses from direct to indirect. Continue Reading WaMu’s Losses on Fraudulent Mortgages Are Covered; Not “Indirect” as Carrier Argued
The interplay between primary and excess insurance is often litigated, especially in the context of settlements. On April 26, 2017, the First Circuit in Salvati v. Am. Ins. Co., 16-1403, 2017 WL 1488238, at *1 (1st Cir. Apr. 26, 2017) considered whether the settlement agreement entered into between plaintiff and the insureds/primary insurer was sufficient to trigger excess insurance coverage under the insured’s policy with American Insurance Company.
The Ninth Circuit in Teleflex Medical Incorporated v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh PA, No. 14-56366 (9th Cir. Mar. 21, 2017) affirmed a jury verdict finding that AIG must pay $3.75 million in damages plus attorneys’ fees to cover LMA North America, Inc.’s (“LMA’s”) settlement with its competitor over allegedly disparaging advertisements that characterized a competitor’s products as unsafe.
On February 22nd, Hunton insurance team partner Syed Ahmad and Mary Borja of Wiley Rein LLP will be speaking at the DC Bar’s CLE program “What Every Litigator Should Know About Insurance and How It May Impact Your Case Strategy.” The two hour class will discuss what steps an insured should take to protect claims, the role of insurance in defending and settling claims, and how to preserve attorney-client privileges. To learn more about the event, please visit: http://bit.ly/2k8SCQT.
Date and Time:
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 from 6 pm to 8:15 pm
D.C. Bar Conference Center
1101 K Street NW
(Nearest Metro Stop: Metro Center 12th Street)
Washington DC 20005
On February 3, 2017, members of Hunton & Williams’ insurance group, led by Insurance Practice Head Walter Andrews, and firm associate Anna Lazarus, achieved a significant victory in the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, in Hillsborough County v. Star Insurance Co. The 11th Circuit’s published opinion, available here, addressed an issue of first impression under Florida law involving the impact of Florida’s statutory limitations on liability and an excess liability policy’s self-insured retention. The decision provides substantial guidance under Florida law and will have significant impact on many other cases in the Florida state and federal courts. Hillsborough County concerned an order relieving the policyholder from satisfying its self-insured retention after the court found that the statutory requirement for an intervening act of the Florida legislature frustrated the purpose of the policy. On appeal, and after oral argument, the 11th Circuit unanimously reversed in favor of our client, finding that the policy should be enforced in accordance with its terms. The case demonstrates why policyholders and insurers should be very careful in negotiating policy provisions that may be impacted by statutory liability provisions.
On November 2, 2016, a federal judge in California ruled that a Real Estate Property Managed endorsement in policies issued to a real estate manager negated a standard policy exclusion, but also rendered the policies excess to other available insurance. The case involved a dispute over coverage for a bodily injury claim involving “Pigeon Breeders Disease,” allegedly contracted due to the insured’s failure to keep pigeons away from a condo complex’s rooftop HVAC units. The plaintiff sued the property owners, Jerry and Betty Lee, and the property manager, Sierra Pacific Management Co. Inc. (Sierra Pacific).
On November 9, 2016, my colleagues Syed Ahmad, Shawn Regan and Shannon Shaw, published an article in Corporate Counsel discussing a recent decision from New York’s highest court that may impact the exchange of information between policyholders and their insurers. The article addresses the impact of Ambac Assurance v. Countrywide Home Loans, in which the New York Court of Appeals held that an attorney-client communication disclosed to a third party during the period between the signing and closing of a merger will remain privileged only if the communication relates to a common legal interest in a pending or anticipated litigation. The ruling represents a restrictive reading of the common interest doctrine despite a recent trend among federal and state courts to broaden the doctrine to remove any litigation requirement.