A federal court in New York denied an insurer’s attempt to dismiss a coverage dispute, rejecting the insurer’s contention that the individual insured directors were “necessary” parties. The insurer argued that, because the outcome of the coverage suit could jeopardize the directors’ indemnity and thereby implicate the D&O policy’s Side A coverage for non-indemnified losses, the directors had an indispensable interest in the litigation. The court disagreed.

The coverage dispute in LRN Corp. v. Markel Insurance Co., 1:20-cv-08431 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 23, 2021), arose from an underlying lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court brought by an LRN shareholder against the company and three of its directors. The plaintiff in the underlying lawsuit alleged that a self-tender offer by LRN to acquire shares of LRN’s common stock was coercive and part of a scheme that was in part orchestrated by the LRN’s directors. LRN, though dismissed from the underlying lawsuit, continued to pay legal fees for the named directors.
Continue Reading Insured Directors Not “Necessary” for Complete Adjudication of Insurer’s Coverage Obligations

The Superior Court of Delaware held that a directors and officers liability insurer must advance defense costs to a mortgage broker targeted in a federal government investigation of alleged False Claims Act violations. In Guaranteed Rate, Inc. v. ACE American Insurance Company, No. N20C-04-268 MMJ CCLD (Del. Sup. Ct. Aug. 18, 2021), Guaranteed Rate received a Civil Investigative Demand from federal authorities in June 2019 regarding the company’s underwriting and issuance of federally-insured mortgage loans. Eleven days later, Guaranteed Rate provided notice of the CID under a private company management liability policy issued by ACE American Insurance Company.
Continue Reading D&O Insurer Must Fund $18 Million Defense of Mortgage Broker in Fed’s Investigation of False Claims Act Violations

A Delaware Superior Court judge recently upheld a policyholder’s preferred forum in Delaware, denying five insurers’ motion to dismiss or stay the Delaware coverage action filed after the insurers had filed suit preemptively in Texas. The court in CVR Refining, LP v. XL Specialty Insurance Co., No. N21C-01-260 EMD CCLD, 2021 WL 3523925 (Del. Super. Ct. Aug. 11, 2021), held that, although the insurers (XL Specialty, Twin City Fire, Allianz Global Risks US, Argonaut, and Allied World) filed suit three days before the insureds, both suits were filed “contemporaneously” under Delaware law and that the insurers had failed to demonstrate any “overwhelming hardship” necessary to dismiss the case. The court also found that, since the insurers were all licensed to do business in Delaware, they could not show overwhelming hardship. Thus, the policyholder’s preference to litigate its insurance claims in Delaware must stand.
Continue Reading Delaware Court Upholds Policyholder’s Choice of Forum, Denies Insurers’ “First-Filed” Argument Following Race to the Courthouse

A California federal district court recently denied an insurer’s motion to dismiss a manufacturer’s insurance coverage suit on the grounds that an “unfair competition” exclusion barred coverage for a suit that alleged violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. The court allowed the suit to proceed because the exclusion did not clearly, explicitly, and unambiguously apply to the product liability suit alleged against the manufacturer.
Continue Reading Insurer’s “Unfair Competition” Exclusion Defense to Product Liability Suit Overcooked, For Now, As Pressure Cooker Manufacturer’s Insurance Claim Proceeds

A company faces two class action lawsuits—filed by different plaintiffs, complaining of different allegedly wrongful conduct, asserting different causes of action subject to different burdens of proof, and seeking different relief based on different time periods for the alleged harm. Those facts suggest the suits are not “fundamentally identical,” but that is what a Delaware Superior Court recently concluded in barring coverage for a policyholder seeking to recover for a suit the court deemed “related” to an earlier lawsuit first made outside the policy’s coverage period. First Solar Inc. v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., No. N20C-10-156 MMJ CCLD (Del. Super. Ct. June 23, 2021). The decision, which is not on all fours with some of the authority upon which it relies, underscores the inherent unpredictability of “related” claim disputes and need for careful analysis of the policy language against the factual and legal bases of the underlying claims.
Continue Reading When “Substantially Similar” Means “Fundamentally Identical”: Delaware Court Enforces Related Claim Provision to Deny D&O Coverage for Securities Class Action

Hunton Andrews Kurth’s insurance coverage team recently published a client alert discussing a D&O coverage dispute arising from a contractual liability exclusion.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a D&O liability insurer could not rely on ambiguous endorsements as a basis to deny coverage for claims brought by investors against its insured company and its CEO. Reversing the Eastern District of Missouri, the appellate court in Verto Medical Solutions LLC, et al. v. Allied World Specialty Insurance Co., No.19-3511 (8th Cir.), found the policy ambiguous as to whether a contractual liability exclusion had been deleted by endorsement and thus, the insurer must provide coverage for the underlying claims.
Continue Reading D&O Insurer Muted by “Uncertainty” in Contract Exclusion, and “Complicated” Endorsements, in Headphone Manufacturer’s Liability Claim

The Northern District of New York recently awarded summary judgment to insurer Affiliated Factory Mutual Insurance Co. against Mohawk Gaming Enterprises, a casino and resort operated by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe located on the border of New York and Canada. Mohawk Gaming sued AFM seeking recovery of business income losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In granting the insurer’s motion, however, the court failed to consider all parts of the AFM policy, as required under New York law, and failed to afford meaning to specific language contained in the policy’s two communicable disease sections, each of which specifically contemplate that “communicable disease,” as defined and covered under the AFM policy, can cause loss and damage to property. Instead, the court followed other decisions from “numerous courts around the country,” each of which is based on inherently flawed reasoning (e.g., reliance on cases where no presence of virus was alleged or cases that clearly and broadly excluded loss caused by virus), to conclude that the presence of virus “is insufficient to trigger coverage when the policy’s language requires physical loss or physical damage.” In fact, a federal court in Texas recently rejected the very same reasoning employed in Mohawk Gaming after recognizing that the FM/AFM policy form “is much broader than [others] and expressly covers loss and damage caused by ‘communicable disease.’” See Cinemark Holdings, Inc. v. Factory Mut. Ins. Co., No. 4:21-cv-00011 (E.D. Tex. May 5, 2021).

Continue Reading New York Federal Court Ignores Policy’s Uniquely Broad Wording in Favor of Following the Herd

Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the Southern District of New York’s award of over $2 million to policyholder, Fabrique Innovations, Inc., against its ocean cargo insurance carrier, Federal Insurance Company.

Federal issued an “all-risk” ocean cargo insurance policy to Fabrique for fabric and plush merchandise “temporarily in storage” at a warehouse owed by Hancock Fabrics. Fabrique’s goods were lost when Hancock liquidated its holdings—including Fabrique’s merchandise—as part of Hancock’s bankruptcy proceedings. Following the loss, Fabrique filed a claim under its policy with Federal. Federal denied the claim, citing various exclusions, including an exclusion for “loss, damage or expense caused by or resulting from willful misconduct, fraud or deceit,” which the insurer argued was triggered due to Hancock’s sale of the goods in violation of the parties’ third-party logistics agreement.


Continue Reading Goods Lost to Chapter 11 Closing Sale, Resulting “Sue and Labor” Expenses, Covered Under Ocean and Inland Marine Policy, According to Second Circuit Court of Appeals

In September, we discussed a Florida district court’s finding that an insurer must defend a Miami strip club in a lawsuit filed by 17 models who alleged the club used their images to promote its business without authorization. Recently, an Illinois federal judge ruled similarly, ordering that First Mercury Insurance Company defend its insured, Triple Location, against a similar lawsuit.

In First Mercury Insurance Co. v. Triple Location LLC, three models sued the insured strip club after it allegedly published their images without consent. The models claimed the unauthorized postings created the false impression that they had agreed to promote the insured business, Club O, which harmed their image, brand, and marketability. The models also alleged that the club was negligent in failing to adopt and implement policies and procedures to prevent the misappropriation of images.


Continue Reading Insurer Must Bare All and Defend Strip Club Against Infringement Claims

Hunton Andrews Kurth’s insurance coverage team recently published a client alert discussing a D&O coverage dispute arising from a credit union’s post-acquisition fraud claims.

Everest National Insurance Company has filed a lawsuit denying any obligation to cover a post-acquisition lawsuit by a credit union alleging fraud against two banks and their executives. The seller paid additional premium for an extended reporting period to report claims based on pre-acquisition wrongful conduct, but the insurer denied coverage on the ground that any claims asserted by the buyer are excluded under the D&O policy’s “insured vs. insured” exclusion. The decision underscores the importance of not only ensuring continuity of D&O coverage before and after a transaction but also evaluating all possible claim scenarios arising out of a deal to ensure that all stakeholders are adequately protected.


Continue Reading Insurer Denies Coverage for Deal Litigation Despite Bank Purchasing Runoff Coverage for Pre-Acquisition Alleged Wrongful Acts