Most management liability insurance policies are written on a defense-costs-inside-the-limits basis, meaning that covered defense costs erode the limits of liability as the expenses are incurred. Though this is a well-established arrangement within the industry for this type of insurance, the erosion of limits by defense expenses sometimes comes as an unwelcome surprise to a policyholder, usually in the middle of a serious claim. A recent federal appellate case involved an effort by a community hospital system in Mississippi to try to argue that its expenses incurred in defending an underlying claim did not erode the limits of its management liability insurance policy.
In a March 1, 2017 opinion (here), the Fifth Circuit, applying Mississippi law, rejected the hospital system’s arguments and held that under the terms of the policy, the system’s expenses defending the underlying claim did erode the applicable policy limits. While the Fifth Circuit’s conclusion in that regard arguably is unremarkable, it does provide an opportunity to step back and consider the limits erosion feature of these kinds of policies.