Regular readers know that I frequently write about insurance coverage disputes in which insurers contend that coverage is precluded due to the policyholders’ alleged late provision of notice. All too often, the policyholders end up without coverage as a result of the late notice allegations. In an interesting (albeit confusingly written) decision, a Michigan intermediate appellate court upheld a trial court’s rejection of a professional liability insurer’s late notice argument, finding that in fact the policyholder had provided timely notice of the claim ultimately in dispute, and therefore that the insurer was not entitled to recoup amounts the insurer incurred in defending and settling an arbitration that had been filed against the policyholder. The ruling highlights the fact that notice timeliness disputes often are factually complicated and that careful consideration of the applicable facts can sometimes confirm that a policyholder did in fact comply with the notice requirements. The Michigan Court of Appeals (Oakland Circuit)’s February 26, 2019 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading Michigan Appellate Court Rejects Insurer’s Late Notice Defenses

When most people think of liability insurance, they think about the insurer’s payment obligations. But policyholders have obligations under liability insurance policies, too. Among the most important policyholder obligation is the requirement to provide timely notice of claim. The failure to provide timely notice can entirely preclude coverage, as is illustrated in a ruling in a recent coverage dispute arising out of an underlying False Claims Act claim. As discussed below, there were a number of circumstances involved in the underlying claim that the policyholder argued excused or at least explained its late provision of notice. However, the court rejected these arguments and held the late notice was not excused and that coverage was precluded. The February 12, 2019 order in the case by Central District of California Judge Stephen V. Wilson can be found here.
Continue Reading Late Notice Precludes Coverage for False Claims Act Settlement

Claims made policies provide coverage for claims first made during the policy period, but only if the insurer is provided with timely notice of claim. Most claims made policies allow policyholders to provide insurers with a notice of circumstances that may give rise to a claim in the future, in order to make the date of the notice of circumstances as the claims made date for any future claims. A recent Sixth Circuit considered a situation in which a policyholder attempted to provide notice of circumstances, even though, the court later concluded, a claim had already been made. The appellate court concluded that because the policyholder’s notice omitted the circumstance the court considered to represent a claim, the attempted notice was insufficient to provide notice of the actual claim. The court’s decisions raises questions about policyholder’s notice obligations under the policy. The Sixth Circuit’s July 10, 2018 decision can be found here.
Continue Reading Sixth Circuit: Attempted Notice of Potential Claim Insufficient to Provide Notice of Actual Claim

Claims made insurance policies provide coverage for claims first made during the policy period. So if the claim is made during the policy period, there’s coverage, right? Not so fast; there’s a catch. Under most claims made policies, the claim also has to be reported during the policy period or within a short period after the policy period ends. In many jurisdictions, the insurer can deny coverage for the late notice even if the delay did not prejudice the insurer in any way. The policy’s notice clause operates as a “Mother May I” provision –  even though you paid your premium, you don’t get coverage unless you say “Mother May I” and provide notice within the time limits. The problem is that policyholders muff the notice requirements all the time. We all know that. Late notice happens all the time. As a result, policyholders often get no coverage for the claims but the insurers keep the premium.
Continue Reading Why Late Notice Cases Bother Me

eighth circuitIf an insured give notice of claim to its insurer during the policy period but seven months after a lawsuit is filed, has it provided notice “as soon as practicable” as required under the policy? Not according to a May 25, 2017 decision by the Eighth Circuit. The appellate court, applying Minnesota law, affirmed the district court’s holding that the provision of notice during the policy period but seven months after the lawsuit was filed against the insured did not satisfy the policy’s “as soon as practicable” notice requirement. While the Eighth Circuit’s ruling is consistent with the rulings of other courts on this issue, I still have concerns, as noted below. The Eighth Circuit’s opinion in the case can be found here.
Continue Reading Eighth Circuit: Notice Provided During the Policy Period But After Seven Month Delay Not “As Soon as Practicable”

coloradoA recurring professional liability insurance coverage issue is whether or not the notice prejudice rule applies to claims made policies. In a recent decision, District of Colorado Judge Richard P. Matsch, applying Colorado law, held that the notice prejudice rule did apply to claims made professional liability insurance policy with an “as soon as practicable” notice requirement, and he also rejected the carrier’s late notice defense on the grounds that the insurer’s failure to involve itself in or even inquire about the underlying claim undermined its assertion that it had been prejudiced by the late provision of notice.
Continue Reading Late Notice Defense Rejected Where Insurer’s Response Undercuts Prejudice Claim

zillowA recurring circumstance fraught with peril for policyholders is one in which the policyholder receives a demand letter in one policy period and then receives a related lawsuit in a subsequent policy period. The fact that these events straddle two policy periods creates potential for possible coverage preclusive issues having to do with Notice of Claim and Claims Made Date issues. In an April 13, 2017 order (here), Judge James Robart, applying the law of Washington State, held that because Zillow failed to give timely notice of a demand letter it received in the prior policy period, there was no coverage for the later lawsuit filed against Zillow in the subsequent policy period, because the claim had first been made at the time of the demand. As discussed below, this case and Judge Robart’s analysis raises some interesting issues.
Continue Reading Late Notice and Claims Made Date Issues

connecticutA recent summary judgment ruling in a D&O insurance coverage lawsuit in the District of Connecticut addressed several potentially preclusive coverage issues. In her February 28, 2017 opinion (here), Judge Vanessa Bryant, applying Connecticut law, ultimately held that coverage for the underlying claim was precluded due to the insured’s late provision of notice of claim, a conclusion that under the facts presented arguably is unremarkable. What makes Judge Bryant’s opinion interesting is not her ruling on the notice of claim issue, but rather her analysis of other issues, particularly her conclusion that the “related claim” and “prior or pending litigation” exclusions did not preclude coverage. The facts involved present other seemingly critical issues that Judge Bryant’s decision does not address.
Continue Reading D&O Insurance: Prior and Pending Litigation Exclusion Doesn’t Preclude Coverage, Late Notice Does

marylandAs anyone involved in the liability insurance claims knows, late notice of claim is a recurring problem. When policyholders’ notice of claim is late, liability insurers will often contend that the late notice precludes coverage. However, many jurisdictions have a so-called “notice prejudice” rule, specifying that insurers can deny coverage for late notice only if the late provision of the notice prejudiced the insurer. One of the states imposing the notice prejudice rule is Maryland, where the rule is statutory. Even where the notice prejudice rule applies, there is still the question of what must be shown in order for the rule to apply.

A January 27, 2017 decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court), held that a non-profit organization D&O insurer was not prejudiced by, and therefore could not deny coverage for, the policyholder’s two-and-a-half year delay in providing notice of claim, where the underlying lawsuit had been stayed almost the entire time and where the insurer could not have done anything to avoid the adverse factual determinations in a related but separate proceeding. The court’s ruling underscores the importance of the notice prejudice rule in protecting policyholder’s rights under liability insurance policies. The Maryland Court of Appeals’ opinion in the case can be found here. A February 6, 2017 post about the court’s ruling on the Hunton & Williams law firm’s Insurance Recovery Blog can be found here.
Continue Reading D&O Insurance: Over Two-Year Notice Delay Does Not Bar Coverage Where Delay Did not Cause Prejudice

delawareAmong the key parts of a claims-made insurance policy are its definition of the term “claim” and its provisions specifying the policyholder’s notice of claim obligations. A recent Delaware Superior Court decision by Judge Eric Davis examined both of these basic policy features and considered what is required in order to meet the policy’s claim definition and in order for an insurer to raise late notice as defense to coverage. As discussed below, Judge Davis’s analysis raises some important considerations about these both of these basic policy features. Judge Davis’s September 29, 2016 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading D&O Insurance: What is a Claim and When Does Late Notice Defeat Coverage?