In a prior post, we discussed a New York trial-court decision that found an insurance policy issued in 1966, to insure the construction of the World Trade Center, continues to cover modern-day asbestos claims, with each claim constituting an individual occurrence. Last week, in American Home Assurance Co. v. The Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., 7628-7628A (1st Dep’t Nov. 15, 2018), an intermediate appellate court affirmed that decision, agreeing that coverage is triggered for claims tied to alleged asbestos exposure at the WTC site in the 1960s and ’70s.
A California federal court found coverage under AIG’s general liability policy for the defense and indemnity of email scanning suits against Yahoo!. Those suits generally alleged that Yahoo! profited off of scanning its users’ emails. Because the allegations gave rise to the possibility that Yahoo! disclosed private content to a third party, the court found that the suit potentially fell within the coverage for “oral or written publication, in any manner, of material that violates a person’s right of privacy.” Thus, AIG’s duty to defend was triggered.
The court also found that AIG had a duty to indemnify for Yahoo!’s settlement in the email scanning suits. One key question was whether the settlement amount paid as attorneys’ fees to plaintiff’s counsel constituted damages under the policy. The court concluded that they were, based on the fact that the plaintiffs sought attorneys’ fees under a statute and on its finding that Yahoo! would reasonably expect that those fees would qualify as damages.
Yahoo! had also alleged that AIG acted in bad faith in its claims handling because AIG had denied coverage for the first two lawsuits and then ultimately acknowledged such an obligation with respect to the third lawsuit and in so doing had cited exclusions that were not a part of the policy. The court found that issue was one for a jury to decide.
This decision is another example that valuable cyber coverage for defense and indemnification may be available under general liability policies. Of course, whether there is coverage will depend on the particulars of the claim and the insurance policy.
There was nothing ambiguous in former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s ruling in AIG Property Cas. Co. v. Cosby, No. 17-1505 (1st Cir. June 7, 2018), where, sitting by designation, Justice Souter ruled that AIG Property and Casualty Co. (“AIG”) must defend Bill Cosby in suits brought by eight women alleging that Cosby defamed them after they accused him of sexual misconduct. Cosby held two insurance policies issued by AIG: a homeowner’s policy and a personal excess liability policy (the “umbrella policy””). Under each policy, AIG has a duty to “pay damages [Cosby] is legally obligated to pay [due to] personal injury or property damage caused by an occurrence covered by this policy anywhere in the world . . . .” Both policies define “personal injury” to include “[d]efamation” and require AIG to pay the cost of defending against suits seeking covered damages. Both policies also contain so-called “sexual misconduct” exclusions. The homeowner’s policy’s exclusion bars coverage for liability or defense costs “arising out of any actual, alleged[,] or threatened . . . [s]exual molestation, misconduct or harassment[,] . . . or . . . [s]exual, physical or mental abuse.” The umbrella policy contained similar wording. However, that policy also contained another “sexual misconduct” exclusion under the “Limited Charitable Board Directors and Trustees Liability” coverage part. That exclusion applied more broadly to claims for damages “[a]rising out of, or in any way involving, directly or indirectly, any alleged sexual misconduct” (emphasis added).
The Northern District of Illinois in Astellas US Holding, Inc. v. Starr Indemnity and Liability Co., 2018 WL 2431969, at *1 (N.D. Ill. May 30, 2018) held that a U.S. Department of Justice subpoena demanding documents relating to a government investigation constitutes a “Claim.”
A federal court in New Jersey recently held that the construction of an ambiguous policy term is not a matter suitable for judgment on the pleadings, thus denying AIG from avoiding coverage for a $67 million antitrust settlement. Rather, the only way to establish the meaning of an ambiguous term, the court explained, is to ascertain the intent of the parties, which requires “meaningful discovery.”
A New York trial court held last week in American Home Assurance Co. v. The Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., Index No. 651096/2012 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Nov. 29, 2017) (Bransten, J.) that an insurance policy issued in 1966, to insure the construction of the World Trade Center, continues to provide insurance coverage over modern-day asbestos claims, with each claim constituting an individual occurrence.
In an article appearing in Law360, Hunton & Williams insurance partner, Michael Levine, weighs in on Office Depot’s pending Ninth Circuit appeal of a district court ruling that Office Depot is not entitled to coverage for a California False Claims Act case alleging that the office supply chain overbilled public agency customers. The decision is premised on a finding that California Insurance Code Section 533 — which precludes coverage for a policyholder’s willful acts — applies to the entire underlying CFCA action, including allegations of reckless and negligent conduct. But as Levine points out, the district court made the “fundamental error” of presuming that Office Depot had actually been found liable for a violation of the CFCA, when it had not. Section 533 requires “more than the mere allegation” of a willful act by a policyholder, he said. Levine goes on to explain the danger in affirming such an erroneous ruling is that “it creates a dilemma for policyholders, because even the mere allegation of a CFCA violation would be barred from coverage [even though n]othing in Section 533 suggests it was intended to have such a broad preclusive effect.”
In prior posts (here and here), we have highlighted some potential coverage concerns for losses arising out of the use of blockchain technology. However, as previously reported, Blockchain technology’s relevance to insurance is not limited to coverage for losses. In fact, earlier this week, the Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative known as B3i expanded its membership to include heavyweight insurance companies like Chubb, AIG, and Gen Re as well as notable insurance and reinsurance brokers like Marsh, Guy Carpenter, Willis Re, and JLT Re.
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 March 31 and April 15, we wrote blog posts (which can be accessed here and here) about a D.C. federal judge’s decision to rescind MetLife’s systematically important financial institution (SIFI) status. On October 24, a D.C. Circuit three-judge panel heard oral argument of the appeal of that decision. The federal government advocated to reinstate MetLife’s “too big to fail” designation by arguing that regulators were not required to prove the insurance giant was likely to collapse before imposing enhanced federal oversight. Conversely, attorneys for MetLife argued that the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) acted arbitrarily by not partaking in any threshold analysis of how MetLife would be vulnerable to a financial collapse.