Insured v. Insured Exclusion

The news that McDonald’s had filed a lawsuit against its former CEO, Stephen Easterbrook, to recoup severance compensation the company had paid Easterbrook, made the front page of the Wall Street Journal. The company contends that Easterbrook had only been terminated last November “without cause” – entitling him to a full severance package – because he had lied to investigators about the nature and extent of his relationship with company employees. The lawsuit contends — based on evidence of three additional sexual relationships Easterbrook had with company employees that only came to light this summer — that Easterbrook should have been terminated for cause. As discussed below, the lawsuit raises a number of interesting issues.  A copy of the company’s August 10, 2020 filing on Form 8-K about the lawsuit can be found here, and a copy of the complaint, which was attached to the 8-K, can be found here.
Continue Reading Thinking About McDonald’s Lawsuit Against its Former CEO

Many traditional liability insurance policies contain provisions specifying that in the event of a claim the insurer has the duty to defend the insured. However, many management liability insurance policies do not impose a duty on the insurer to defend the insured; rather, these policies usually provide that insureds will defend themselves, with the obligation on the insurer to advance defense costs as they are incurred, subject to all of the policy’s terms and conditions. However, because defense obligations under the more traditional duty to defend arrangement are well established and more familiar to many courts, courts sometimes attempt to resolve issues arising under duty to advance policies by referring to principles established with regard to duty to defend policies.

In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit declined to apply duty to defend principles to interpret a D&O insurer’s duty to advance, holding that the insurer’s duty to advance extended only to actually covered claim and not to potentially covered claims as would be the case under a duty to defend policy. The appellate court also affirmed the district court’s rulings with respect to the applicability of the policy’s wage and hour claims exclusion; the policy’s definition of “loss,” precluding coverage for amounts deemed “penalties” in the applicable statute; and the insured vs. insured exclusion. A copy of Ninth Circuit’s June 17, 2020 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading D&O Insurer’s Duty to Advance Defense Costs Applies to Covered Claims, Not Potentially Covered Claims

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.
Continue Reading D&O Insurance: Coverage Precluded for Insured Director Acting in Multiple Capacities

A standard exclusion found in most private company directors and officers insurance policies precludes coverage for claims brought by one insured against another insured – the so-called Insured vs. Insured exclusion. The exclusion typically includes several coverage carve-backs preserving coverage for certain types of claims for which the exclusion would otherwise preclude coverage. One relatively standard coverage carve-back preserves coverage for claims brought by a former director or officer after the individual’s service to the company terminated. While the inclusion of this type of coverage carve-back is fairly standard, the wording of the carve-back can and sometimes does vary in ways that can significantly affect whether or not coverage is available for particular claims.

In a December 13, 2017 decision (here), Central District of California Dean D. Pregerson concluded that an underlying dispute between a former director and his former company did not fall within the coverage carve-back to the Insured vs. Insured exclusion in the company’s D&O insurance policy and therefore that there was no coverage under policy for the underlying claim. The decision highlights the importance of the specific language used in the coverage carve-back.
Continue Reading D&O Insurance: Coverage Carve-Backs in the Insured vs. Insured Exclusion