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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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.
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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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marylandOne of the recurring battles in the continuing wars about whether or not a policyholder’s late provision of notice of claim precludes coverage is the question whether or not the “notice prejudice” rule applies. The notice prejudice rule specifies that the insurer can assert late notice as a coverage defense only if the delayed notice prejudiced the insurer. But if the notice prejudice rule applies, what constitutes “prejudice”? In an April 14, 2016 decision (here), the Fourth Circuit, applying Maryland law, addressed this issue and held that where the policyholder did not provide notice until after a $98.5 million default judgment had been entered in the underlying claim, the insurer was prejudiced and coverage under the policy was precluded. As discussed below, the ruling raises a number of interesting questions and also has wording implications for policy notice provisions.
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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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Monteleone-Joe11
Joseph P. Monteleone

Among the perennial coverage issues arising under D&O and E&O policies are questions involving timely notice of claim. Recently, the notice provisions many professional liability insurance policies relating to notice timeliness have been revised to lengthen the time period within which notice must be given and even specifying that if in order to assert late notice of claim, an insurer must demonstrate that it has been prejudiced by the late provision of notice. In the following guest post, industry veteran and well-known insurer-side coverage attorney Joseph P. Monteleone of the Rivkin Radler law firm takes a look at these policy wording changes as well as the case law context within which these changes have arisen.

I would like to thank Joe for his willingness to publish his article on this blog. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to readers of this site. Please contact me directly if you are interested in submitting a guest blog post. Here is Joe’s guest post.

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One of the hallmarks of a claims-made and reported policy historically has been the two-pronged requirement that (1) the claim against the insured must be first made during the policy period, and (2) the claim had to be reported to the insurer, if not strictly within the policy period, at least no later than a “bright line” cut-off date after policy expiration.  These cut-off dates were generally thirty (30) or sixty (60) after policy expiration.

Contrast these with so-called pure claims-made policies, which have the first of the two-pronged component discussed above, but the reporting requirement is typically “as soon as practicable”[i], similar to reporting requirements under occurrence-triggered policies such as the Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy.

As part of the inexorable trend of policy wordings becoming ever broader for the benefit of the policyholder, notwithstanding any hardening or softening of rates for the policies, we have seen significant modifications to the policy reporting provisions.


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