The Texas Supreme Court has reversed a lower appellate court decision and found that insurers of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. cannot use their own policy wording to avoid coverage for more than $100 million of Anadarko’s defense costs stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Law360 interviewed Hunton’s Sergio F. Oehninger about the substantial impact the decision will have for policyholders in Texas and elsewhere. Oehninger explained how the decision corrects fundamental errors by the lower court in the construction of insurance policies and how it illustrates the proper way to construe words chosen by the insurer that operate to limit or preclude coverage. In the Anadarko matter, the London market policy contained a “joint venture” provision that capped joint venture liabilities at $37.5 million. The insures applied the cap after paying that amount to Anadarko. The Texas Supreme Court rejected the insurers’ argument and the decision of the court below, finding that the joint venture provision applies only to “liabilities” – that is, amounts Anadarko becomes legally obligated to pay to a third party. Defense costs, in contrast, are not amounts paid to a third party and, thus, are not “liabilities” within the context of the joint venture provision. The Court also drew on other policy provisions to support the distinction, including provisions that specifically refer separately to “liabilities” and “defense expenses.” “The Texas Supreme Court’s reversal of the appellate panel’s ruling serves as a clear pronouncement of both insurance policy construction rules and proper appellate review in Texas,” Oehninger said. “In this regard, the Supreme Court’s opinion serves to ‘right the ship’ and bring Texas case law back in line with precedent.”
Reversing a Texas Court of Appeals decision that allowed Anadarko’s Lloyd’s of London excess insurers to escape coverage for more than $100 million in defense costs incurred in connection with claims from the Deepwater Horizon well blowout, the Supreme Court of Texas held that the insurers’ obligations to pay defense costs under an “energy package” liability policy are not capped by a joint venture coverage limit for “liability” insured. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. et al. v. Houston Casualty Co. et al., No. 16-1013 (Tex. Jan. 25, 2019).
In a recent Client Alert, Hunton insurance lawyers Mike Levine, Sergio Oehninger and Josh Paster discuss the impact of the Second Circuit’s recent opinion in Patriarch Partners, LLC v. Axis Insurance Co., where the Court confirmed that a warranty letter accompanying the policyholder’s insurance application barred coverage for a lengthy SEC investigation. The decision underscores the importance of understanding how a policy’s language and definitions impact the scope of information that policyholders must consider when representing facts and circumstances in insurance applications. The opinion left intact the lower court’s finding that the SEC subpoena constituted a “demand for non-monetary relief” and thus qualified as a “Claim” under the directors and officers (D&O) insurance policy. The Second Circuit and Southern District’s rulings in Patriarch confirm that government subpoenas or civil investigative demands constitute a “Claim” that ought to trigger coverage under fairly standard D&O policy language. Policyholders facing government subpoenas, civil investigative demands, or other formal or informal government demands should not hesitate to seek coverage for such costs under their D&O insurance policies.
Read the full alert here.
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.
Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology (“DLT”), is already proving to be a game-changer for businesses globally and across sectors. But is it secure? And can insurance help protect against risks and, thus, help advance the development of this technology? Continue Reading Insuring the Blockchain
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.”
This week, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton issued a statement on Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) addressing the legality, fairness, and risks associated with those offerings. Although the agency’s bulletin was one of many recent public statements by federal agencies on ICOs and cryptocurrencies generally, this new warning highlights additional issues and concerns with the ICO phenomenon that are particularly relevant to insurance coverage.
In a recent brief filed in the Sixth Circuit, American Tooling Center, Inc. argued that the appellate court should reverse the district court’s decision finding no insurance coverage for $800,000 that American Tooling lost after a fraudster’s email tricked an employee into wiring that amount to the fraudster. As we previously reported here, the district court found the insurance policy did not apply because it concluded that American Tooling did not suffer a “direct loss” that was “directly caused by computer fraud,” as required for coverage under the policy. The district count pointed to “intervening events” like the verification of production milestones, authorization of the transfers, and initiating the transfers without verifying the bank account information and found that those events precluded a “finding of ‘direct’ loss ‘directly caused’ by the use of any computer.”
With Brexit approaching in March 2019, uncertainty remains over whether Britain and Brussels will reach an agreement to ensure that UK insurers can continue to pay out on policies after Britain leaves the European Union. The uncertainty tied to Brexit serves as a broader warning to policyholders about the potential pitfalls that can occur when large-scale political or economic change occurs, and how that change can impact an insurer’s indemnity obligations under a pre-existing contract. In the case of Brexit, it remains unclear whether UK and EU regulators will permit the transfer of existing contracts across borders, or whether they will permit a contract formed and regulated under the rubric of one economic area to suddenly be governed by another. Although procedures do exist for the transfer of policies from one insurer to another, the cost of such a transfer is substantial – roughly £1 million ($1.3 million). Pre-Brexit, the UK saw about 20 such transfers per year. Reports suggest that number could increase ten-fold, with the expense to eventually be passed down to policyholders. With increased secession movements around the world in recent years (e.g., Crimea, Catalonia, Scotland, etc.), the insurance ramification of such changes ought to be considered by companies and insurers doing business or insuring business interests in such regions.
Last week Bloomberg Law launched an online “cyber insurance suite” authored by Hunton attorneys, Walter J. Andrews, Sergio F. Oehninger, and Patrick M. McDermott. The online suite, available here and to Bloomberg subscribers, covers all aspects of cyber insurance, including identifying the major cyber risks and liabilities, applying for and obtaining cyber insurance coverage, and submitting claims under cyber coverages. It also contains an overview of case law evaluating coverage for cyber liabilities under traditional insurance policies and under cyber specific insurance policies. Hunton will regularly update the suite as the risks, coverages, and law continues to develop.