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.”
Hunton & Williams insurance partner Syed Ahmad was recently quoted in Law360 regarding a recent trend in judicial decisions favoring policyholders. Ahmad addresses an apparent trend by courts to refuse to allow technical violations to void coverage under complex insurance policies. A link to the Law360 article containing Ahmad’s comments can be found at 5 Insurance Rulings You May Have Missed In The 1st Quarter.
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.
A New York trial court has ruled that TransCanada Energy USA Inc. (TransCanada) is entitled to recover $58 million from its property insurers for loss caused by a cracked generator turbine rotor. The recovery encompasses approximately $7 million in property damage to the cracked turbine and more than $50 million in lost profits.
On February 11, 2016, New Jersey’s highest court held that National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (“National Union”) could refuse coverage for Templo Fuente De Vida Corp. and Fuente Properties Inc.’s settlement with policyholder First Independent Financial Group under a “claims-made” directors and officers policy because First Independent did not provide notice “as soon as practicable.”