On Wednesday, a federal judge in Texas denied Factory Mutual’s Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that the plaintiffs adequately alleged that the presence of COVID-19 on their property caused covered physical loss or damage in the case of Cinemark Holdings, Inc. v. Factory Mutual Insurance Co., No. 4:21-CV-00011 (E.D. Tex. May 5, 2021). This is the third COVID-19-related business interruption decision from Judge Amos Mazzant since March, but the first in favor of a policyholder. Taken together, the three decisions have two key takeaways and provide a roadmap for policyholders in all jurisdictions.
We are proud to share that Business Insurance has named Hunton Andrews Kurth insurance coverage associate, Latosha M. Ellis, one of the magazine’s 2021 Break Out Award winners. Business Insurance’s Break Out Awards honor 40 top professionals from around the country each year who are expected to be the next leaders in risk management and the property/casualty insurance field. Business Insurance reviewed hundreds of nominees, all of whom have worked in commercial insurance or related sectors for under 15 years. Out of those hundreds, Latosha was selected as one of the 40 honorees for 2021.
Hunton insurance coverage attorney Geoffrey Fehling recently presented on new developments in the area of D&O liability insurance at the Director and Officer Liability Committee’s spring meeting, which concluded a week of programming, networking, and other events at the 2021 ABA Business Law Virtual Spring Meeting. The mission of the Committee on Director and Officer Liability is to monitor developments concerning the liability of directors and officers of for-profit corporations, including court decisions, government actions, D&O insurance, and indemnification and advancement.
Geoff was first appointed as Vice Chair of the group’s Insurance Subcommittee but has since been elevated to serve as a Vice Chair of the Committee. Over the past year, Geoff and other Committee leaders have provided updates to members through periodic alerts and announcements, as well as presented on noteworthy developments related to D&O insurance, indemnification, advancement, and other topics.
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.
In a recent post on the Nickel Report (“Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance: What are the Risks, Really?”), our colleagues provide a thoughtful discussion of various risks, trending issues, and emerging concerns arising from environmental, social, and corporate governance (“ESG”). One key takeaway is that ESG-related activity at the federal government is just getting started and that agencies have already begun devoting substantial resources to ESG issues, like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s recently-announced Climate and ESG task force to “develop initiatives to proactively identify ESG-related misconduct.”
On Wednesday, a federal judge in New York denied FM’s Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings after finding the Contamination Exclusion in the Factory Mutual policy to be ambiguous as to whether it bars coverage for business interruption losses resulting from communicable disease. The case is Thor Equities, LLC v. Factory Mutual Ins. Co., No. 20 Civ. 3380 (AT) (SDNY). This is a critical decision under the Factory Mutual policy form, which is substantively the same as policies issued by Factory Mutual’s sister company, Affiliated FM Insurance Company. Factory Mutual and Affiliated FM have maintained that the contamination coverages are “exceptions” to this exclusion, with the exclusion precluding coverage for communicable disease loss under other policy coverages. But the ruling validates what policyholders have been arguing – that communicable disease “loss” is covered throughout the Factory Mutual policy, in addition to under the sublimited communicable disease emergency response coverages.
Effective April 1, 2021, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP has promoted insurance recovery lawyer, Andi DeField, and six other attorneys, to partner. “Andi has been a superstar in our practice since the day she arrived,” said insurance recovery practice head, Walter Andrews, adding that “Andi’s promotion reflects the incredible hard work she has contributed to the practice and outstanding results she has achieved for our clients over the years.” A native of Miami, Andi ascended through the ranks at Hunton in its Miami office, joining the firm as a contract lawyer before earning promotions to associate, counsel and, now, partner. But Andi’s rapid ascension did not come without much hard work. Since joining the firm, “Andi has, year after year, consistently knocked the cover off the ball in terms of her tireless work ethic, the superior results she has achieved and her extraordinary aptitude for marketing herself, our practice and the firms many other practices,” said insurance recovery partner, Mike Levine. Levine added, “Andi is an amazing lawyer and a true champion for her clients. I’m proud to now call her my partner.”
In another pro-policyholder ruling in Delaware, a Delaware Superior Court judge has denied a group of insurers’ application for certification of interlocutory appeal in the long-running D&O dispute, Verizon Communications Inc. et al. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, PA, et al., C.A. No. N18C-08-086 EMD CCLD (Del. Super. March 16, 2021). The court’s most recent decision arises out of a February 23 ruling that Verizon could recover $24 million in legal fees incurred in defense of a fraudulent transfer lawsuit brought by a bankruptcy trustee. When the insurers’ sought to appeal this interlocutory decision, the court refused, concluding that the benefits of an immediate appeal, if any, do not outweigh the probable costs. The decision will permit the orderly resolution of what the court deemed to be “standard contract law principles,” which the insurers had failed to demonstrate negated coverage.
Hunton insurance attorneys Syed Ahmad, Geoffrey Fehling, and Kevin Small commented on a retailer’s insurance dispute related to COVID-19 in the latest edition of the Recall Roundup, posted on the Hunton Retail Law Resource Blog.
In a setback for retail-policyholders hoping to enforce coverage for losses due to COVID-19 in federal court, a Tennessee district court recently knocked out a complaint filed by a sprawling Nashville establishment seeking coverage under a food contamination provision in its property policy. The court’s opinion dismissing Nashville Underground LLC v. AMCO Insurance Co. is noteworthy due to the great lengths taken to define a policy provision—intended to provide broad coverage for disruption of business due to the suspicion of food contamination—in a way that limits coverage contrary to the reasonable expectations of businesses purchasing policies specifically tailored to protect against actual or suspected contamination.
On March 3, 2021, the Delaware Supreme Court issued a landmark decision holding that Delaware law should be applied in disputes over directors and officers liability (“D&O”) insurance policies sold to companies incorporated in Delaware. RSUI Indem. Co. v. Murdock, et al. No. 154, 2020, C.A. No. N16C-01-104 CCLD (Del. Mar. 3, 2021). The court addressed this and other key issues in the long-running dispute over D&O insurance purchased by Dole Food Company, specifically addressing issues raised by Dole’s eighth-layer excess insurer, RSUI, which provided $10 million coverage excess of $75 million.
The court decided multiple important issues, finding that liability for alleged fraud is insurable under Delaware public policy, RSUI’s Profit/Fraud Exclusion did not bar coverage because there had been no “final adjudication” of fraud, and the “larger sums rule” governed allocation issues. However, among these important rulings, the most significant may be the Supreme Court’s ruling that Delaware governs the interpretation of D&O insurance issued to a company incorporated in Delaware. The court specifically rejected the insurer’s arguments that California law (which might preclude coverage) should apply under a policy that was purchased and issued in California to a Delaware corporation headquartered in California.