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.
Three significant insurance disputes are pending before the New York Court of Appeals, and Hunton partner Syed Ahmad discusses the importance of those cases in Law 360’s article titled 3 Insurance Cases To Watch At NY’s High Court.
Hunton & Williams insurance partner Syed Ahmad commented in a July 19, 2017, Law360 article concerning the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent decision in Olin Corp. v. OneBeacon America Insurance. In the decision, which is the subject of a July 26, 2017, Hunton blog post, the Second Circuit agreed with Olin that its payments toward remediating contamination at five manufacturing sites implicated a series of excess policies issued by Lamorak Insurance Co., formerly OneBeacon.
The ruling adopted the principles articulated by New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, in last year’s landmark Viking Pump decision. Hunton & Williams LLP partner Syed Ahmad noted that the ruling appeared to be based on specific language in Lamorak’s policies, but said the appellate panel’s extensive discussion of Viking Pump indicates that insurers whose policies contain different language will have a tough time fighting the all sums regime in future cases.
“[T]he court relied on much broader principles and cited extensively to the reasoning in Viking Pump, which calls into question if similar efforts to avoid all sums will be accepted even in cases with different policy language,” Ahmad said.
Last week, the Second Circuit remanded environmental coverage litigation between Olin Corporation and OneBeacon based on its conclusions that (1) all sums allocation applied and (2) a prior insurance provision allowed OneBeacon the opportunity to show that prior excess insurers had made payments for the same claims, thereby reducing OneBeacon’s liability for Olin’s remediation costs at five manufacturing sites.
The district court had calculated OneBeacon’s liability on a pro rata allocation. Based on the New York Court of Appeals’ intervening decision in Viking Pump (previously covered here, the Second Circuit found that an all sums allocation should apply. The decision thus allows Olin to obtain full indemnification under OneBeacon’s policy for amounts spent to remediate the manufacturing sites, up to the limits of that policy. Because the district court had applied a pro rata allocation based on pre-Viking Pump case law, the Second Circuit remanded for the district court to recalculate damages.
As a follow-up to my post yesterday concerning the New York Court of Appeals’ decision in In the Matter of Viking Pump, Inc. and Warren Pumps, LLC, Insurance Appeals, where the New York high court confirmed that policyholders may allocate all amounts of loss to a single policy and a single policy year, Syed Ahmad, a partner in our Insurance Coverage Counseling and Litigation team, was interviewed by Law360 about the decision’s broad-ranging implications. As Mr. Ahmad explained in an article appearing today in Law360, titled NY Allocation Ruling Speeds Policyholders’ Road To Recovery, “[u]nder all-sums, policyholders can seek to recover all amounts owed from one insurer, which will make things much easier for them to recover for a particular loss.” This, plus the decision’s directive that all insurers in a given policy year must pay without the need for horizontal exhaustion of coverage in subsequent policy years, paves the way for policyholders to obtain full indemnification from a single “tower” of coverage.
On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, the New York Court of Appeals held that each of several excess liability insurers can be wholly responsible for the entire extent of their policyholders’ asbestos liabilities. The Court further held that “vertical” exhaustion would apply; rejecting the insurers’ attempt to apply “horizontal” exhaustion before upper-layer policies must respond. The decision, in In the Matter of Viking Pump, Inc. and Warren Pumps, LLC, Insurance Appeals, comes in response to two questions certified from the Delaware Supreme Court: