If the underlying insurers have paid their limits, you would generally expect that the next-in-line excess insurer would also have to pay its limit as well for losses within its layer. However, in an appellate decision with what is arguably an unexpected twist, an appellate court has held – in reliance on express policy language – that an upper layer excess carrier is relieved of its obligation to pay because the underlying carriers, all of whom paid their full limit, did not admit liability. The Third Circuit’s January 19, 2024, decision, marked “not precedential,” can be found here. A January 21, 2024, LinkedIn post about the decision by Paul Curley of the Kaufman, Borgeest & Ryan law firm can be found here.Continue Reading Excess D&O Insurance Coverage Barred Because Underlying Insurers Didn’t Admit Liability
In a June 29, 2023, decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the college’s use of affirmative action in its admissions program was unconstitutional. The discrimination case against the college not only went all the way to the Supreme Court but was also the subject of a long-running insurance coverage dispute involving the college’s excess employment practices insurance. In an August 9, 2023, ruling, the First Circuit held in the insurance coverage dispute that the college’s late provision of notice of claim regarding the underlying discrimination lawsuit precluded excess coverage for the claim. This high-profile insurance coverage ruling has some important lessons about the provision of notice to insurers in connection with liability claims. A copy of the appellate court’s August 9, 2023, ruling can be found here.Continue Reading Late Notice Precludes Excess Coverage for High-Profile Harvard Suit
One of the perennial D&O insurance coverage issues has to do with whether a later claim made during the policy period is interrelated with an earlier claim made prior to the policy period, and whether the later claim therefore is deemed under the policy to have been made prior to the policy periods. These issues were front and center in a recent coverage dispute in which the door manufacturer Jeld-Wen argued that earlier antitrust liability actions were not interrelated with the later securities class actions. In an interesting November 18, 2022 opinion by Western District of North Carolina Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., applying North Carolina law, held that the antitrust and securities actions were interrelated; that the securities claim was deemed first made prior to the policy period of the excess insurer’s policy; and therefore that the settlement of the securities claim was not covered by the policy at issue. A copy of Judge Cogburn’s opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading Prior Antitrust Action Held Interrelated with Later Securities Suit
When a management liability insurance policyholder seeks to increase the limits of liability of their insurance program, the insurers will typically require a statement warranting that the policyholder is not aware of any facts or circumstances that could give rise to a claim. This warranty statement typically specifies that if there is a subsequent claim based on facts or circumstances of which the applicant has knowledge, the subsequent claim is precluded from coverage. This warranty exclusion is often referred to as the prior knowledge exclusion. In an interesting August 15, 2022 opinion in an insurance coverage dispute, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis held that as a result of the insured’s failure to disclose a pending SEC inquiry in a warranty letter, the prior knowledge exclusion in the letter precluded coverage for the underlying matters.
Continue Reading Del. Court Holds Warranty Letter Non-Disclosure of SEC Inquiry Precludes Coverage for Subsequent Claims
Many D&O insurance programs consist of multiple layers of insurance arranged with a layer of primary insurance and one or more layers of excess insurance. In order to ensure that the insurance in the program operates consistently and uniformly, the excess insurance is usually written on a so-called “follow form” basis, meaning that the excess insurance incorporates the primary’s policy’s terms and conditions, subject to any express provisions in the excess policy to the contrary. A recent case from the Court of Appeal for Ontario considered the meaning and impact of excess follow form coverage in the context of a dispute over whether a policyholder could exercise an option to purchase extended reported period coverage from its excess insurer. The decision, while arguable unremarkable in and of itself, nevertheless may have some important lessons for excess insurers. A copy of the Ontario Appeal Court’s July 13, 2022 decision can be found here.
Continue Reading Thinking About Follow-Form Excess Insurance
In the latest development in Pfizer’s long-running efforts to recover from its D&O insurers amounts the company paid in defense and settlement of prior securities litigation (the “Morabito Action”), a Delaware Superior Court Judge, applying Delaware law, has held that the company’s settlement with a lower level excess insurer for less than that insurer’s policy limit did not create a gap relieving an upper layer excess insurer of its payment obligations. The court also found that the company’s earlier notice of a different securities litigation did not trigger the policy’s Prior Notice exclusion. The court’s August 28, 2020 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading Excess Insurer Cannot Avoid Payment Where Underlying Insurer Settled With Policyholder for Less Than Full Policy Limits
The Second Circuit recently took up the insurance coverage dispute arising out of the high profile enforcement action the SEC pursued against hedge fund Patriarch Partners and its CEO, Lynn Tilton. The district court had ruled that coverage under the firm’s third level excess D&O insurance policy for the expenses the firm incurred in defending the SEC action was precluded because the agency’s investigation preceded the policy’s “prior and pending” litigation date. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court, but not on the grounds on which the lower court had relied. Rather, the appellate court affirmed the district court ruling based on its conclusion that coverage was precluded under language in the warranty statement the firm submitted for the excess insurance policy. The opinion includes interesting discussion of the issues surrounding the warranty statement. The Second Circuit’s December 6, 2018 Summary Order in the case can be found here.
Continue Reading Second Circuit: Excess D&O Policy’s Warranty Statement Exclusion Precludes Coverage
In the following guest post, Syed Ahmad, Brittany Davidson, and Andrea DeField of Hunton & Williams LLP take a look at a very interesting New York trial court decision relating to D&O insurers’ duty to advance defense costs. I would like to thank the authors for their willingness to allow me to publish their article as a guest post on my site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this site’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is the authors’ guest post.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Court Requires Insurers to Advance Insureds’ Defense Costs
Everyone involved with D&O insurance knows that it is important to keep up with case law developments, in order to appreciate how courts are interpreting and applying various policy terms and conditions. But sometimes there is an additional reason why it is a good to keep up with court decisions – sometimes the cases provide practical lessons in the form of cautionary tales. That was certainly the case in a recent decision in which the Sixth Circuit, applying Kentucky law, affirmed a lower court ruling that late notice of claim precluded coverage under an excess D&O insurance policy. The policyholder had provided timely notice of claim to the primary carrier, but failed to provide notice to the excess carrier until six months after the policy had expired. The court’s conclusion that the late notice precluded coverage under the excess policy may not be surprising, but nevertheless the practical lesson – that is, that notice of claim should be provided to all of the carriers in the D&O insurance program – is an important one, as discussed further below. A copy of the Sixth Circuit’s February 29, 2016 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading D&O Insurance: Late Notice and Excess Coverage
On September 7, 2012, the Delaware Supreme Court, applying California law, held that Intel’s excess insurer’s defense obligations were not triggered where Intel had settled with the underlying insurer for less than policy limits and had itself funded the defense fees above the settlement amount and below the underlying insurer’s policy limit. A copy of…