In the following guest post, Alison Finn, Claims Counsel, DWF Claims; Elan Kandel, Member, Bailey Cavalieri; and James Talbert, Associate, Bailey Cavalieri, take a look at the most important management and professional liability coverage decisions for 2019, involving the perennial coverage issues for insurers and policyholders. I would like to thank Alison, Elan, and James 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.
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One of the basic requirements in order for coverage to be triggered under a directors’ and officers’ liability insurance policy is that the misconduct alleged must have been undertaken by insured individuals in an “insured capacity” – that is, in their capacities as directors or officers of the insured entity. In a recent insurance coverage ruling, the Delaware Superior Court held that because the allegations against the insured individuals “arose out of” their involvement with entities other than the insured entity, there was no coverage for the individuals under their bankrupt company’s D&O insurance policy. The ruling underscores the importance of capacity issues in determining D&O insurance coverage and highlights the ways in which allegations of misconduct undertaken in multiple capacities can lead to complicated coverage questions. The Delaware Superior Court’s November 30, 2018 decision can be found here.
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One of the key elements to establish coverage under a directors and officers insurance policy is the existence of claim is for actions undertaken by an insured individual in an insured capacity – that is, in his or her capacity as a director or officer of the company. Things in life are never simple, and lawsuits often allege that corporate director or officer defendants were acting in multiple capacities – that is, both in their capacity as a director or officer and in other capacities as well. These multiple capacity claims often present policy interpretation and coverage issues under D&O insurance policies.

In a recent case, the District Court of North Dakota (applying North Dakota law) held that coverage under a D&O insurance policy does not apply to a claim alleging that the insured defendant was acting in multiple capacities. The court also held that the Insured vs. Insured exclusion precluded coverage where the claimants included both insured persons and individuals that were not insured persons. The decision raises some interesting policy language and policy interpretation issues. A copy of May 18, 2018 decision by District of Massachusetts Judge William G. Young, sitting by designation in the District of Nevada, can be found here.
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The insurance available under a D&O insurance policy does not protect insured individuals for all of their activities; rather, the policy protects the individuals only for their actions undertaken in their capacities as officer or directors of the insured organization. The policy does not protect the individuals for actions undertaken in their personal capacity or for actions undertaken as a result of their involvement with entities other than the insured organization.

A recent decision out of the District of North Dakota and applying North Dakota law illustrates the coverage-determinative importance of the question of capacity. In an October 3, 2017 opinion (here), District of North Dakota Judge Daniel Hovland held that because the allegations against the individual who was seeking coverage did not involve alleged actions undertaken in an insured capacity, the individual was not entitled to coverage under the policy. The ruling underscores the importance of capacity issues and also highlights how challenging these issues can sometimes be when individuals are acting in multiple capacities.     
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wisconsinAs I have noted in prior posts (most recently here), a recurring D&O insurance coverage issue is the question of whether or not an insured person was acting in an insured capacity at the time he or she allegedly committed the wrongful acts alleged against him or her. These questions arise because individuals often act in numerous capacities, but the D&O policy provides coverage only for those acts undertaken as a director or officer of the insured company.

A recent case involved similar questions arising under a professional liability insurance policy that provided coverage for the insured individual’s acts in his capacity as the trustee of two trusts. The individual sought coverage under the policy for claims brought against him in his capacity as a director or officer of separate companies in which the trusts held controlling ownership interests. In a June 30, 2016 opinion (here), the Wisconsin Supreme Court, applying Wisconsin law,  affirmed the intermediate appellate court’s holding that under the policy’s business enterprise exclusion, which precluded coverage for claims arising from the individual’s actions for entities other than the specified trusts, there was no coverage under the policy and the insurer had not breached its duty to defend.
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minnThe Insured vs. Insured Exclusion is a standard D&O insurance policy provision. The exclusion precludes coverage for clams brought by one “Insured Person” against another “Insured Person.” But what happens when the claimants suing an Insured Person include both individuals who are Insured Persons and other individuals who are not? In a September 22, 2015 opinion (here), District of Minnesota Chief Judge John Tunheim, applying Minnesota law, held that where the underlying claim involved a lawsuit by an Insured Person against other Insured Persons, the entire claim was precluded from coverage, even though the claimants in the lawsuit included other plaintiffs who were not Insured Persons.
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GaIn  a recent post in which I discussed the “basic value proposition” of D&O insurance, I noted that among the five indispensable elements required in order for coverage under a D&O insurance policy to exist is the requirement that a Claim for an alleged Wrongful Act against an Insured Person acting in an Insured Capacity. The prerequisite that the Insured Person must have been acting in an Insured Capacity at the time of the alleged Wrongful Act arises from the fact that individuals act in a number of different capacities; it is only conduct undertaken in their capacity as an officer or director of the insured company for which the insurance policy provides coverage.

A June 22, 2015 decision by the Eleventh Circuit, applying Georgia law, provides a good illustration of how an individual might be acting in multiple capacities, and underscores the fact that the insurance under a D&O policy is only available when the insured was acting in his or her capacity as a director or officer of the insured company. The case presents some interesting policy wording lessons. A copy of the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion can be found here.
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Many organizations purchase management liability insurance to provide liability and defense cost protection for their directors and officers. But the management liability insurance protects the individuals only for their actions undertaken in an “insured capacity.” The policies are not intended to not protect them for actions they undertake in a capacity other than as a