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.
A Missouri appellate panel recently upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of the insured that an “all-sums” allocation would apply to determining exhaustion of the insured’s liability insurance coverage and, in so holding, rejected the pro-rata, proportional allocation sought by the insurers. The appellate panel further held that coverage could be exhausted vertically.
The Delaware Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a long-running dispute involving Viking Pump’s and Warren Pumps’ claims for recovery under primary, umbrella, and excess insurance. The Delaware high court had certified two questions to the New York Court of Appeals. The Delaware decision follows the New York high court’s ruling in May that the policies required “all sums” allocation and “vertical” exhaustion” (click here and here for prior posts).
Hunton & Williams’ insurance practice head, Walter Andrews, was quoted in a Law360 article yesterday regarding the confusion that is likely to result from a federal bankruptcy judge’s decision in Rapid-American Corp. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co., where the court concluded that a majority of excess insurers owe no coverage to Rapid-American Corp. for underlying asbestos claims until the company exhausts the limits of its underlying primary and excess coverage through actual payment, not just accrued liability. According the Andrews, “the public policy clearly cries out against this ruling because you want to encourage settlement and have certainty in terms of a policyholder knowing what it can do with the coverage it has.” However, “[t]his case throws that into confusion and uncertainty,” Andrews added.
Two of three of Rapid-American Corp.’s excess liability insurers do not have to respond to underlying asbestos claims unless and until all underlying coverage is exhausted by the payment of claims, says Judge Bernstein of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in a June 7, 2016 decision. Rapid-American has been involved in asbestos litigation since 1974 and settled disputes with many of its underlying insurers, but an amount sufficient to reach its excess coverage policies has not yet been paid. Rapid-American argued that it was not necessary for the primary policies’ underlying limits to be exhausted by actual payment before insurers’ excess liability coverage attaches.
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: