7th Circ.: Contract Exclusion Renders Coverage “Illusory”

I have long believed and said that the typical professional liability and D&O liability insurance policy contractual exclusion written with the broad “based upon, arising out” preamble sweeps too broadly and precludes coverage for the very kind of claims for which policyholders buy the insurance. The Seventh Circuit has now said what I have long been saying; the appellate court found that the contractual liability exclusion in an E&O insurance policy renders coverage under the policy “illusory” and therefore the policy must be reformed to match the policyholder’s “reasonable expectations.” I hope everyone involved in the professional liability and D&O liability insurance industry will take the time to familiarize themselves with this recent decision. I also hope this decision means the end of contractual liability exclusions using the broad “based upon, arising out of” preamble. Continue Reading

Late Notice of Claim Precludes Coverage

Readers know that it doesn’t take much to get me up on my hobby horse about insurers trying to deny coverage based on the late provision of notice. In general, I am against a mere procedural fault causing a complete coverage forfeiture. Every now and then though there is a case where the policyholder’s lack of diligence makes the case against the insurer’s coverage defense very tough.  A recent decision out of the District of Minnesota provides an example where the extent and nature of the policyholder’s delay in providing notice of claim made the argument in favor of coverage very difficult. But while the insurer’s denial of coverage based on policyholder’s late provision of notice arguably was justifiable in the case, the circumstances involved still present some important lessons both about notice of claim and about the policyholder’s obligations under the policy. Continue Reading

A Critique of the Delaware Chancery Court Decision on Federal Forum Provisions

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 2018 decision in the Cyan case that state courts retain concurrent jurisdiction for ’33 Act liability actions, one idea that circulated was that companies could avoid securities class action lawsuits in state court by adopting a charter provision designating a federal forum for these kinds of suits. Unfortunately, in December 2018, Delaware Chancery Court Vice Chancellor Travis Laster held in Sciabacucchi v. Salzburg that under Delaware law federal forum provisions are invalid and ineffective, as discussed here. The Sciabacucchi decision, which is now on appeal, is the subject of a comprehensive critique in a recent article by Stanford Law Professor Joseph Grundfest, entitled “The Limits of Delaware Corporate Law: Internal Affairs, Federal Forum Provisions, and Sciabacucchi” (here). Professor Grundfest argues that Sciabacucchi was wrongly decided and that a under a “straightforward” application of applicable Delaware statutory law, federal forum provisions are valid and permitted. Continue Reading

Guest Post: Some Good News for the Cybersecurity Class Action Bar

John Reed Stark

As discussed in the following guest post from John Reed Stark, a recent development in the class action litigation arising out of the massive Marriott International data breach could have significant ramifications for other claimants asserting class action claims — including securities class action claims — based on data breaches or other cybersecurity incidents. Stark is President of John Reed Stark Consulting and former Chief of the SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement. A version of this article originally appeared on Securities Docket. I would like to thank John for allowing me to publish his guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is John’s article. Continue Reading

Percentage of 2018 Deals Drawing Merger Objection Suits Held Steady

One of the most significant corporate litigation phenomena over recent years has been the rise of merger objection litigation, as result of which nearly every public company merger objection transaction has drawn at least one lawsuit. According to the latest study of merger litigation from Cornerstone Research, this phenomenon continued in 2018, with the same percentage of merger transactions as in 2017 attracting at least one lawsuit – in 2018, as in 2017, 82% of public company merger transaction valued over $100 million drew at least one lawsuit. The Cornerstone Research report, entitled “Shareholder Litigation Involving Acquisitions of Public Companies: Review of 2018 M&A Litigation,” can be found here. Cornerstone Research’s September 17, 2019 press release about the report can be found here. Continue Reading

Cal. Sup. Ct.: Notice-Prejudice Rule Represents a Fundamental Public Policy

Under the so-called “notice-prejudice Rule” applicable in some jurisdictions, insurers can deny coverage for claims based on the policyholder’s late provision of notice of claim only in the event that the late notice materially prejudiced the insurer. In a recent decision, the California Supreme Court, ruling on questions certified to the Court from the Ninth Circuit, held that the notice-prejudice rule represents a “fundamental public policy” under California law potentially sufficient to override the choice of law provision in the parties’ insurance contract. The Court also held that the notice-prejudice rule also applies to the consent to incur expense provisions in first-party insurance policies. As discussed below, there are a number of interesting aspects to the court’s ruling. The California Supreme Court’s August 29, 2019 decision in Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Company can be found here.

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11th Circ.: Florida Public Policy Precludes Coverage for Voluntary Settlement of Criminal Charges

D&O insurance typically defines the term “Claim” to include criminal charges after indictment. However, the coverage available under the policy for criminal proceedings is excluded in the event of a final adjudication determining that precluded misconduct actually took place. But what happens to the coverage if there is no final adjudication but rather the criminal charges are resolved through a negotiation that results in a monetary payment by the criminal defendants? In a recent decision, the Eleventh Circuit determined that the applicable D&O insurance policy’s coverage did not extend to amounts paid in negotiated resolution of criminal charges, despite the absence of a final adjudication – not by operation of the exclusion, but because of the nature of the payments.  Continue Reading

Mumbai Professional Liability Insurance Symposium

The D&O Diary’s overseas assignment continued this week with a stop in Mumbai, India’s financial capital. I was in Mumbai to participate in the annual Bima Gyaan Symposium, an educational and networking event for the professional liability insurance industry in India. As reflected in the pictures below, the event was once again well-attended and was a great success. Continue Reading

Guest Post: No Choice of Law in Delaware Coverage Disputes?

In the following guest post, Jeremy Salzman and Kylie Tomas of Sompo International and Ommid Farashahi and Jonathan Cipriani of BatesCarey LLP discuss a recent series of Delaware court decisions in which the courts applied Delaware law in addressing insurance coverage disputes. In their article, the authors question Delaware law appropriately should have been the law applied in those cases. I would like to thank the authors for allowing me to publish their article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is the authors’ article. Continue Reading

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