In an interesting June 23, 2017 opinion in a case raising a host of claims made date, notice of potential claims, and notice of claims issues, Western District of Tennessee Judge Sheryl Lipman, applying Tennessee law, held that a purported notice to insurers of a potential claim was insufficient to provide notice of an actual claim, therefore concluding that the defendant insurers did not have to reimburse the policyholder for its $212.5 million FHA loan violation settlement with the DOJ. The opinion provides interesting insights into the meaning of the policy term “Claim,” as well as into what is required in order to provide sufficient notice of claim.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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nystateA recurring theme on this blog is the problem that the late provision of notice creates for policyholders. Insurers frequently will seek to deny coverage when the policyholder does not provide timely notice of claim. As anyone with day-to-day claims involvement knows, there are a lot of reasons why policyholders fail to provide timely notice of claim. Sometimes the delayed notice is the result of a conscious decision, as, for example, when the policyholder decides that the claim isn’t all that serious. Sometimes, the failure to provide timely notice is the result of an oversight, as, for example, when the policyholder fails to recognize that the matter might be covered by insurance. That this type of oversight might happen is hardly surprising, since even very sophisticated business managers may not be fully aware of what their insurance might cover. When this happens, you would hope that the company’s attorneys would be looking out for them and would ask about the company’s insurance, as a way to help their clients to maximize available insurance protection.

As illustrated by a recent case from New York, it is an all-too-frequent occurrence that a company’s outside counsel fails to ask about the insurance or to inquire whether insurance might be available to protect the company. In discussing the New York case here, I have no interest in encouraging claims against companies’ counsel. Rather, my hope is that by highlighting these issues I will encourage both policyholders and their counsel to include the discussion of insurance into their standard routines at the outset of a claim, as a way to help ensure that policyholders avoid late notice problems and take full advantage of the insurance coverage for which they have paid. A copy of the May 11, 2016 New York intermediate appellate court case, Soni v. Pryor, can be found here. A June 14, 2016 memo from the Pullman & Comley law firm about the decision can be found here.
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KentuckyEveryone 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.
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new jerseyAs anyone involved in D&O insurance knows, policyholders’ late provision of notice of claim is a recurring problem. All too often, delays in providing notice result in a preclusion of coverage, an outcome that I find in many cases to be troubling. Because of concerns about policyholders’ loss of coverage, some courts have held that an insurer must show that the late provision of notice prejudiced its interests in order to disclaim coverage. However, a number of other courts have also held that the “notice prejudice rule” does not apply to claims made policies.

Along these lines, on February 11, 2016, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that, at least where a “sophisticated” insured is involved, an insurer that contends that it was not provided with timely notice of claim under a claims made insurance policy does not have to show that it was prejudiced by the delayed provision of notice in order to disclaim coverage. The New Jersey Supreme Court’s opinion can be found here.

As I commented at the time when the intermediate appellate court reached the same conclusion in this case, I have some issues with this case and the way it all played out.
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thnkerOne of the frequently recurring D&O insurance coverage issues is the question of whether or not the policyholder provided its insurer with timely notice of claim as required under the policy. This past week several readers sent me a copy of a recent decision in which a federal court denied coverage under a homeowners’ association’s D&O insurance policy because of the association’s untimely notice of claim. In light of the policy language involved, the facts at issue, and the court’s analysis, the court’s decision arguably is unremarkable. However, I found that after I read the decision, I couldn’t stop thinking about what the coverage denial meant for the homeowners’ association and its members. This in turn caused me to reflect upon the problems with late notice coverage disputes in general. After a brief discussion of the recent decision, I have set out below my thoughts about notice defenses.

The decision that triggered these thoughts was Central District of California Judge Jesus G. Bernal’s January 7, 2016 ruling in the coverage action brought by The Citrus Course Homeowners Association (HOA) against its D&O insurer. A copy of Judge Bernal’s decision can be found here.
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