In 2015 and 2016, we discussed certain provisions of the then drafts of the Restatement of the Law, Liability insurance, including the Duty to Cooperate, here, and Duty to Defend, here and here. In late May 2017, the American Law Institute met to approve the Proposed Final Draft—the culmination of over seven years of work on this project. Not surprisingly, many of the issues discussed in the Restatement have been hotly contested by insurers. While in many instances, the reporters simply opted for the majority rule, in a few instances, the Restatement may seek to move the law on key issues to align the law and the incentives underlying insurance and claims-handling. In a recent article for Risk Management Magazine, Lorie Masters, Syed Ahmad, and I address some of the most hotly debated sections of the proposed Restatement, including: policy interpretation principles, such as when a term is deemed ambiguous; the standard for determining the insurer’s duty to defend; the insurer’s duty to make reasonable settlement decisions; and the allocation of liability in long-tail environmental claims. The article can be found here. We will also be speaking at the upcoming Florida RIMS Conference in Naples, Florida on this subject on July 28th. Please see the Florida RIMS website for more information on that conference.

The vote on the final draft has been pushed to the American Law Institute’s next annual meeting in May 2018. In the meantime, policyholders may consider submitting comments on sections of interest and can look to the current Proposed Final Draft as guidance on what the law may be should they encounter a coverage dispute with their liability insurer.

 

Andrea DeField’s update, and her original post discuss portions of the proposed Restatement of the Law on Liability Insurance and how they may alter the consequences for breaching the duty to defend. The proposed Restatement contains many other provisions that may prove relevant to future coverage disputes, particularly ones governed by state law that is less developed than in states like New York, California, and Florida.

Continue Reading Draft Restatement of the Law on Liability Insurance – Duty To Cooperate

After our December 15, 2015 post about the Discussion Draft of the Restatement of the Law on Liability Insurance, the American Law Institute released Council Draft No. 2 on December 28, 2015. Relevant to my last post, Council Draft No. 2 contains revisions to §19 of Chapter 2, addressing the duty to defend. While the Reporters’ Memorandum notes that no substantive changes have been made to the black letter law of this section, the comments section has been revised to reflect a proposed intermediate approach. ALI Restatement of the Law: Liability Insurance, Council Draft No. 2 (not approved), Dec. 20, 2105 p. xiv. These revisions reflect a more moderate position than that taken in the previous Discussion Draft.

Continue Reading New Intermediate Approach Advanced by Restatement Reporters on Duty to Defend

At present, the general rule is that an insurer that breaches its duty to defend still may contest coverage. Signature Dev. Companies, Inc. v. Royal Ins. Co. of Am., 230 F.3d 1215, 1222 (10th Cir. 2000). However, the tides may soon change. The Discussion Draft of the Restatement of the Law on Liability Insurance proposes that “[a]n insurer that breaches the duty to defend a claim loses the right to assert any control over the defense or settlement of the claim and the right to contest coverage for the claim.” See § 19, “Consequences of Breach of the Duty to Defend, ALI Restatement of the Law: Liability Insurance, Discussion Draft (April 30, 2015), p. 147. The proposed Restatement explains, “[t]he forfeiture-of-coverage-defense rule discourages insurers from attempting to convert a duty-to-defend policy into an after-the-fact defense-cost-reimbursement policy.” Id. at 148. The Restatement further explains that insurers should be wary to outright deny a defense. Rather, it suggests that “[t]he proper procedure is to provide a defense subject to a reservation of rights and then, if appropriate, institute a declaratory-judgment action to terminate the duty to defend…If the insurer cannot, or does not choose to, file a declaratory-judgment action, it can preserve its coverage defenses by refusing to settle the claim while continuing to provide a defense (subject to the risks attendant to breach of the duty to make reasonable settlement decisions).” Id. at 149.1

Continue Reading New Restatement May Alter the Consequences for Breaching the Duty to Defend