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Archive for the ‘Claims Handling’ Category

Time-on-the-Risk Allocation: Are Periods when Coverage is Unavailable in the Market Part of the Time-on-the-Risk?  

September 23rd, 2018 Absolute Pollution Exclusions, Allocation, Allocation of Settlements, Claims Handling, Follow-the-Settlements/Follow-the Fortunes, Insurance Contracts, Insurance Coverage, Long-Tail Claims, New York Court of Appeals, New York State Courts, Reinsurance Allocation, Reinsurance Arbitration, Reinsurance Claims, Reinsurance Litigation, Sudden and Accidental Pollution Exclusions No Comments »
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We’ve discussed various issues concerning the allocation of asbestos or hazardous waste claims by insurers or cedents in situations where losses occur in multiple policy periods over time. (See here, here, & here.) Issues relating to allocation of such claims have, for many years, arisen in both insurance coverage cases and reinsurance litigation and arbitration, and they still do.

Earlier this year in Keyspan Gas East Corp. v. Munich Reins. Am., Inc., ___ N.Y.3d ___, N.Y. Slip Op. 2116 (March 27, 2018), New York State’s highest court held that, where applicable policy language contemplates a pro-rata time-on-the-risk allocation of loss, the damages or liability should be allocated over the entire period during which it occurred, including periods during which insurance was not available in the market because of exclusions or other reasons. While the outcomes it will generate are more favorable to insurers than policyholders, the Keyspan decision is sound and consistent with prior New York Court of Appeals cases on allocation and insurance generally. Given New York’s highest court’s historically excellent reputation for resolving insurance and reinsurance issues in an objectively fair and commercially reasonable manner, we suspect that Keyspan may prove to be an influential decision that other states will consider carefully when they are faced with questions concerning what should or should not be counted as part of the time-on-the-risk.

Time-on-the Risk Allocation: Contextual Background

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Hazardous waste and asbestos claims are unique because the “injury producing harm is gradual and continuous and typically spans multiple insurance policy periods….” Keyspan, 2018 N.Y. Slip Op. 2116, at *4. Typically the “environmental contamination” or asbestos injury “that occurred in any given year is unidentifiable and indivisible from the total resulting damages.” See 2018 N.Y. Slip Op. at 2.

Allocating a multi-policy-period loss in different ways can have very significant financial consequences to reinsurers and cedents, and insurers and their insureds. The amount of loss allocated to a given policy determines the applicability of deductibles, the exhaustion (or non-exhaustion) of limits, and the amount the insured is entitled to collect from the insurer under each policy. It factors into whether reinsurance retentions have been met or whether reinsurance contract limits have been exceeded. It can even determine whether certain insurers (e.g. excess or umbrella carriers) or reinsurers are responsible for any of the loss. Continue Reading »

Arbitrator-Imposed Claims Protocols, Honorable Engagement and Access-to-Records: First State Ins. Co. v. National Cas. Co.

April 10th, 2015 Access to Records, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Arbitrator-Imposed Claims Protocols, Authority of Arbitrators, Claims Handling, Follow-the-Settlements/Follow-the Fortunes, Grounds for Vacatur, Honorable Engagement, Judicial Review of Arbitration Awards, Practice and Procedure, Reinsurance Arbitration, Reinsurance Claims, United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit Comments Off on Arbitrator-Imposed Claims Protocols, Honorable Engagement and Access-to-Records: First State Ins. Co. v. National Cas. Co.

Introduction

yay-10424184---CopyAt first glance the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit’s opinion in First State Ins. Co. v. National Cas. Co., No. 14-1644, slip op. (1st Cir. Mar. 20, 2015) appears to be an honorable engagement clause case, but it is really an arbitrator-imposed-claims-payment-protocol case.  First State concerned a claims protocol (the “Claims Protocol”) which said claims payments “may be made subject to an appropriate reservation of rights by [the reinsurer] in instances where it has or does identify specific facts  which  create a reasonable question regarding coverage under the subject reinsurance agreement(s).” It also explained that “[p]ayment obligations on the part of [the reinsurer] are not conditioned upon the exercise of its right to audit or the production of additional information or documents, other than those provided by [the cedent] as described . . .[in the portion of the protocol specifying the cedent’s proof-of-loss requirements].” Slip op. at 3.

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The reinsurer contended the protocol’s reservation-of-rights procedure impaired its contractual rights to access of records, including its right to recoup claim payments in circumstances where, as of the time the Claims Protocol required the reinsurer to pay a  claim, the reinsurer had not yet been given the opportunity to inspect the cedent’s records concerning the claim and thus would not have the opportunity to determine whether there were “specific facts which create a reasonable question regarding coverage.  .  . ”  That, argued the reinsurer, denied or effectively impaired its contractual rights in a least two ways: (a) once it paid a claim as required by the Protocol without reserving its rights based on “specific facts” creating a reasonable question about coverage, then the Cedent could refuse to provide it access to its records of the claim; and (b) even if the cedent provided post-payment access-to-records, and even if the reinsurer’s post-payment audit uncovered for the first time specific facts demonstrating the claim was invalid, the Protocol’s reservation of rights feature would foreclose the reinsurer from obtaining recoupment of the claim unless the reinsurer somehow had knowledge of those specific facts, and asserted them at the time it was required to pay the claim.

Had the reinsurer’s interpretation of the Claims Protocol’s reservation of rights procedure been the only one to which it was susceptible, then the reinsurer’s Section 10(a)(4) challenge might have succeeded. As it turned out, there was at least one other interpretation of the Protocol, and under that interpretation, the reinsurer’s access-to-records and recoupment rights were not foreclosed by the reinsurer not making a Claims-Protocol-compliant reservation of rights.

So the Court quite correctly affirmed the district court’s decision to confirm the award. But National Casualty did not walk away empty handed. As we’ll see, the Court’s opinion confers upon National Casualty a deserved benefit that is arguably as valuable as would have been a decision reversing the district court’s judgment with instructions to vacate the arbitration award.

Let’s first briefly review what transpired in First State, and what the Court, in Senior Circuit Court Judge Bruce M. Selya’s sometimes arcane and colorful—but always clear, concise and well-organized— prose, had to say about it. Continue Reading »

One Per Occurrence Limit per Policy Period or One Per Occurrence Limit . . . Period? — New York Court of Appeals Reaffirms Noncumulation Clause Means what it Says  

December 2nd, 2014 Accumulation of Loss, Allocation, Allocation of Settlements, Anti-Stacking Provisions, Certificate or Treaty Limits, Claims Handling, Definition of Occurrence, Environmental Contamination Claims, Insurance Contracts, Insurance Coverage, Lead Paint Claims, New York Court of Appeals, New York State Courts, Noncumulation Clauses, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Reinsurance Allocation, Reinsurance Claims, Timing and Number of Occurrences, Trigger of Coverage Comments Off on One Per Occurrence Limit per Policy Period or One Per Occurrence Limit . . . Period? — New York Court of Appeals Reaffirms Noncumulation Clause Means what it Says  

Introduction

Liability insurance policies written on a per occurrence basis generally provide coverage for losses that occur during the policy period and arise out of an “occurrence.” In general (and subject to policy definitions) “occurrence” means not only a temporally discrete accident or event, but also “continuous exposure” to the same harmful conditions. Such “continuous exposure” may occur during more than one consecutive policy period and cause what is, for all intents and purposes, indivisible, continuing injury or property damage. Examples of that type of continuous exposure resulting in continuing injury or damage include, among others, exposure of tenants to cracked or peeling lead paint in an apartment building for a period of years, exposure of persons to asbestos products, or exposure of groundwater to hazardous waste over a period of years, resulting in liability for clean-up costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) (a/k/a “Superfund”).

Issues concerning the timing and number of occurrences, and per-policy allocation of loss, are particularly important in coverage cases where continuous exposure to conditions spans multiple policy periods and causes continuing, indivisible injury or property damage during those periods. The liability insurer’s indemnity obligation is limited to a specified limit per occurrence. In a continuous exposure case, the “occurrence” happens continuously over a period during which multiple consecutive policies are in effect.. There is one occurrence—sometimes referred to as a “continuing occurrence”—but it takes place during each of several consecutive policy periods. Does that mean that the insurer is obligated to pay a maximum of one per occurrence limit for all loss that occurs during its total coverage period, irrespective of how many policies it issued during that period, or must it pay up to one per occurrence limit per policy for whatever portion of the loss falls, or is deemed to fall, within that policy?

The answer to that question can have significant economic consequences for the liability insurer, and, of course, its reinsurers. If a liability insurer issues a landlord three, consecutive one-year-term policies with per occurrence limits of $X, and a tenant sustains injury attributable to continuous exposure to cracked or peeling lead paint, then, all else equal, the answer will determine whether the insurer’s maximum total indemnity obligation is $X or three-times that amount ($X multiplied by the number of policies involved).

Continue Reading »

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

November 5th, 2014 Claims Handling, Contract Interpretation, Insurance Contracts, Late Notice, New York Court of Appeals, New York State Courts, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Practice and Procedure, Reinsurance Claims, Retrospectively-Rated Premium Contracts, Statute of Limitations Comments Off on What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

Part IV.C.1

Why Hahn Automotive v. American Zurich Ins. Co. is an Important Statute-of-Limitations Accrual Case

(Cont’d)

 

  Introduction

Part IV of our New York reinsurance statute-of-limitations feature started out by taking a closer look at Hahn Automotive Warehouse, Inc. v. American Zurich Ins. Co., 18 N.Y.3d 765 (2012). (See Part IV.A.) Part IV.B enumerated the seven reasons Hahn is a very significant development in New York statute-of-limitations law, and discussed the first two reasons,  namely that Hahn:

  1. Creates a new general rule, which effectively extends to a larger universe of contracts a statute of limitations accrual principle that the New York Court of Appeals had applied only to certain specific types of contracts, including contracts of indemnity; and
  2. Demonstrates that, outside the limited context of express conditions, breach-of-contract statute-of-limitations accrual is not exclusively a matter of party intent.

Part IV.B. also set the stage for discussing the third reason, that is, Hahn suggests the New York Court of Appeals—if faced with an accrual question where the obligor’s obligation to perform is conditioned on the obligee’s demand for payment—may deem the statute of limitations to accrue: (a) once the obligee is legally entitled to demand payment; or (b) the earlier of (i) the date the obligee demands payment or (ii) the expiration of a commercially reasonable period measured from the date the obligee became legally entitled to demand payment.

This Part IV.C.1 wraps up our discussion about Hahn’s likely influence on how courts applying New York law will decide cases where—unlike Hahna demand for payment is an express condition of the obligor’s duty to perform, but—like Hahn—the obligee has, for whatever reason, delayed making a demand. The focus of the wrap-up is on why we think that courts will probably permit accrual to be delayed for no more than a brief, commercially reasonable period, and may simply conclude that the Hahn legally-entitled-to-demand-payment rule should govern such cases because the performance of the condition is within the obligee’s control,  the benefits of the Hahn rule far exceed its costs and the costs of a “commercially reasonable time” rule exceed its benefits. Continue Reading »

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

October 6th, 2014 Choice-of-Law Provisions, Claims Handling, Contract Interpretation, New York Court of Appeals, New York State Courts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Reinsurance Arbitration, Reinsurance Claims, Retrospectively-Rated Premium Contracts, State Courts, Statute of Limitations Comments Off on What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

 Part IV.B

 Why is Hahn Automotive v. American Zurich Ins. Co. Important?

Introduction

Now that we’ve taken a closer look at Hahn Automotive Warehouse, Inc. v. American Zurich Ins. Co., 18 N.Y.3d 765 (2012), let’s step back a bit and consider what it means both in general and in the reinsurance-claim-statute-of-limitations scheme of things.

As will be explained in this Part VI.B, Part VI.C, and Part VI.D, Hahn:

  1. Creates a new general rule, which effectively extends to a larger universe of contracts a statute of limitations accrual principle that it had applied only to certain specific types of contracts, including contracts of indemnity;
  2. Demonstrates that, outside the limited context of express conditions, breach-of-contract statute-of-limitations accrual is not exclusively a matter of party intent;
  3. Suggests that the New York Court of Appeals, if faced with an accrual question where the obligee’s demand is an express condition to the obligor’s liability, would probably not permit accrual to be delayed for more than a relatively brief period measured from the date on which the obligee was legally entitled to demand payment;
  4. All but forecloses an argument that a court may justify a delay in the statute of limitations by deeming a demand requirement to be an implied condition;
  5. Creates an analytic framework for determining breach-of-contract statute-of-limitations accrual questions that is at least as well-suited to excess-of-loss reinsurance contracts as it is to retrospective premium contracts;
  6.  Will likely be applied to reinsurance contract statute-of-limitations questions, that cedents or reinsurers may in the past have assumed would be governed by Continental Cas. Co. v. Stronghold Ins. Co., 77 F.3d 16 (2d Cir. 1996); and
  7. If so applied to a situation where, as in Stronghold: (a) the reinsurance contract does not unambiguously condition the reinsurers’ liability on claims presentation; and (b) the cedent settled the underlying insurance claims more than six-years before commencing their action, will, all else equal, likely require a finding that the cedent’s claims are time-barred.

Hahn therefore has some important claims management implications for both cedents and reinsurers, which we’ll discuss in Part IV.E.

But there is, as no doubt many readers have discerned, a proverbial “elephant in the room:” arbitration. Arbitration agreements are exceedingly common in reinsurance contracts, particularly in treaties. In Part V., we’ll discuss the profound effect that the choice between judicial and arbitral resolution of a controversy can have on statute of limitations questions, and how that choice bears on cedent and reinsurer time-bar strategy.

Finally, there is another very important—and all too frequently overlooked— consideration that we would arguably be remiss not to discuss: choice-of-law. Reinsurance disputes, like so many of their other commercial counterparts, frequently cross state and national borders, raising horizontal choice-of-law issues. But in many (indeed, probably most U.S.) jurisdictions, including New York, choice-of-law rules that determine what substantive rules of decision apply (i.e., what rules of decision apply to merits-related issues) do not determine what statute-of-limitations rules apply, and that may be true (as it ordinarily is in New York) even where parties agree that the law of State X governs their agreement.

In New York, that issue is ordinarily determined by New York’s borrowing statute, New York Civ. Prac. L. § 202, many other states have similar (although not necessarily identical) borrowing statutes and at least a few other states may either simply follow the traditional rule that forum law governs statute of limitations or apply substantive choice-of-law rules to determine the applicable statute of limitations. Part VI will thus address choice-of-law questions pertinent to the statute of limitations, focusing on New York’s borrowing statute, and discuss how choice-of-law issues affect time-bar strategy. Continue Reading »

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

September 19th, 2014 Claims Handling, Contract Interpretation, Insurance Contracts, Late Notice, New York Court of Appeals, New York State Courts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Practice and Procedure, Reinsurance Claims, Retrospectively-Rated Premium Contracts, Statute of Limitations, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Comments Off on What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

Part IV.A

Hahn Automotive v. American Zurich Ins. Co., 18 N.Y.3d 765 (2012): Unless Parties Unambiguously Condition Obligor’s Duty to Perform on Demand for Payment, Statute of Limitations Begins to Run as Soon as Obligee is Legally Entitled to Demand Payment

If you’ve been following this multi-part post from inception, then you know that we think the New York Court of Appeals’ 2012 decision in Hahn Automotive Warehouse, Inc. v. American Zurich Ins. Co., 18 N.Y.3d 765 (2012) strongly suggests that, if faced today with facts materially identical to those in Continental Cas. Co. v. Stronghold Ins. Co., 77 F.3d 16 (2d Cir. 1996), New York’s highest court would hold that the cedent’s claims were time-barred because: (a) the notice provisions in the reinsurance contracts did not unambiguously condition the reinsurers’ obligation to pay on presentation of claims and demands for payment; and (b) the cedent was legally entitled to present and demand payment for each of its reinsurance claims more than six years before the cedent commenced its action. This Part IV.A discusses what transpired in Hahn, and Part IV.B will analyze Hahn’s likely effect on excess-of-loss reinsurance-claim statute-of-limitations accrual.

Hahn Facts and Procedural History

Hahn was a dispute between an auto parts distributor (the “Insured”), and its two insurers, both members of the Zurich Insurance Group (the “Insurers”).

During each annual period between September 1992 and September 2003, the Insurers provided general liability, auto liability and workers’ compensation coverage to the Insured. The insurance was priced using three types of alternative-risk-finance rating plans embodied in: (a) retrospective premium agreements (the “Retro Premium Agreements”); (b) adjustable deductible policies (the “Adjustable Deductible Policies”); and (c) deductible policies (the “Deductible Policies”). The Insurers also entered into certain claims services contracts (the “Claims Services Contracts”) under which the Insurers provided claims-handling services on a fixed-fee-per-claimant basis. Continue Reading »

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

April 27th, 2014 Claims Handling, Contract Interpretation, New York Court of Appeals, New York State Courts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Practice and Procedure, Reinsurance Claims, Statute of Limitations, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Comments Off on What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

Part III.C

Does New York Law on Implied or Constructive Conditions

Provide a Basis for Stronghold’s Conclusion?

 

New York’s six-year statute of limitations for breach of contract does not begin to run until the obligee has satisfied all express conditions to the obligor’s duty to perform. (See Parts I and II.) Part III.B explained why we believe the Second Circuit in Continental Cas. Co. v. Stronghold Ins. Co. did not correctly interpret and apply New York law when it concluded that a garden-variety notice-of-loss provision in an excess-of-loss reinsurance contract was an express condition to the extent it required the cedent to notify reinsurers of paid-loss claims and demand payment. That (we believe) erroneous conclusion enabled the Second Circuit to hold that the cedent’s breach-of-contract claims were not barred by New York’s six-year statute of limitations, even though they were based on settlements the cedent had concluded with its insureds more than six-years before the cedent commenced its action. (See Part III.A.)

At the conclusion of Part III.B we raised the question whether Stronghold might make sense under the law of implied or constructive conditions, that is, if we were to interpret it as having construed the notice-of-loss provision as an implied or constructive condition. But Stronghold fails even if it is reconceptualized that way.  Continue Reading »

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

March 20th, 2014 Claims Handling, Contract Interpretation, New York Court of Appeals, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Practice and Procedure, Reinsurance Claims, Statute of Limitations, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Comments Off on What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

Part III.A

Continental Casualty Co. v. Stronghold Ins. Co.: Background

In Part II (here) we reviewed New York law pertinent to express conditions and how they can delay the accrual of the statute of limitations if the plaintiff has not satisfied them.

Now let’s turn to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s decision in Continental Cas. Co. v. Stronghold Ins. Co., 77 F.3d 16 (2d Cir. 1996), a case that features a fairly comprehensive recitation of New York’s reinsurance-related statute-of-limitations accrual rules as they existed in 1996, but did not apply New York’s express-condition rules consistently with controlling, New York Court of Appeals authority. This Part III.A summarizes what transpired in Stronghold and Part III.B will explain why we think the case not correctly decided.

The Stronghold Facts

Stronghold was a dispute between a United States cedent (the “Cedent”) and its London-Market reinsurers (the “London Reinsurers”) that arose under certain excess-of-loss treaties reinsuring medical malpractice liability policies the Cedent had issued to its hospital insureds.

In the 1980s the Cedent settled several medical malpractice liability claims on behalf of its insureds, but did not notify London Reinsurers of the underlying losses that resulted in the settlements, or present their reinsurance claims to the London Reinsurers, until sometime after the underlying claims were settled. The record apparently did not specify the date or dates on which the Cedent first notified the London Reinsurers of the settlements and demanded payment from the London Reinsurers.

The excess-of-loss treaties (the “Reinsurance Contracts”) provided that the London Reinsurers were “liable only for the excess of loss” incurred by the Cedent in excess of specified retentions of “ultimate net loss.” The contracts defined “ultimate net loss,” as “the sums actually paid in cash in settlement of losses [for] which [the Cedent] is liable.” They also featured notice of loss provisions that said “Loss, if any, under” a policy is “to be reported to [the London Reinsurers] as soon as practicable.”

The London Reinsurers denied each of the reinsurance claims during the period 1987-1990, and in 1991 the Cedent commenced an action for breach of contract in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The London Reinsurers defended on late notice and statute-of-limitations grounds.

As respects the date on which the statute of limitations began to run on each reinsurance claim, the London Reinsurers argued that each claim accrued when the Cedent settled the claim with its insured. Each claim was settled more than six years before the Cedent commenced its action. According to the London Reinsurers, the Cedent was entitled to indemnity immediately upon payment of each settlement, even thought it did not demand payment from the London Reinsurers until a much later date. Alternatively, the London Reinsurers argued that even if their indemnity obligation was conditioned on the Cedent’s presentation of a reinsurance claim for payment,  each of the Cedent’s individual breach of contract of contract claims accrued on the date it became entitled to demand payment from the London Reinsurers, and that occurred each time the Cedent settled an underlying claim.

The Cedent argued that the claims accrued when the London Reinsurers allegedly breached the reinsurance contracts by refusing to pay the claims. Since the London Reinsurers did not refuse to pay the claims any earlier than 1987, and the Cedent commenced its lawsuit in 1991, the lawsuit would not be barred by the statute of limitation under the Cedent’s date-of-accrual theory.

Back in 1991, as some readers may recall, the New York Court of Appeals had not yet decided whether a reinsurer could successfully defend on late notice grounds without establishing prejudice. But in 1992, the London Reinsurers’ litigation strategy was dealt a painful blow when the New York Court of Appeals held, in Unigard Sec. Ins. Co. v. North River Ins. Co., 79 N.Y.2d 576 (1992), that unless a late notice provision expressly conditions a reinsurer’s liability for the claim on timely notice—i.e., the late notice provision is an express condition, not simply a promise—a reinsurer must establish prejudice to be relieved of liability based on the cedent’s failure to provide timely notice of a claim or occurrence.

Answering a question certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, New York’s highest Court explained that, to be express conditions, contractual provisions must unambiguously evidence the parties’ intent to make performance of a duty conditional.[1] The New York Court of Appeals also held that the notice provision before it—which required “[p]rompt notice . . . of any occurrence or accident which appears likely to involve this reinsurance’”—was not an express condition, and that accordingly, the reinsurer in that case could not be relieved of liability for the cedent’s late notice of the loss or losses sustained and reported by the insureds, unless the reinsurer could prove it suffered prejudice as a result of the late notice.

Not too long after the New York Court of Appeals’ landmark reinsurance-law decision answering the Second Circuit’s certified question, the Second Circuit issued its own landmark decision in the Unigard case, holding, among other things, that the reinsurers were unable to establish either prejudice—i.e., “economic injury”—resulting from late notice or that the cedent acted in bad faith in failing to provide timely notice (which would have relieved the reinsurer from liability even without a showing of prejudice).[2]

The London Reinsurers apparently concluded that they could not establish the requisite prejudice to prevail on their late notice defense, a decision which apparently prompted the parties to enter into a stipulation designed to facilitate summary judgment on the merits in favor of one party or the other on the statute of limitations issue. To that end the London Reinsurers agreed to waive their late notice and all other defenses other than statute of limitations, and stipulated with the Cedent that: (a) New York law governed; (b) New York’s six-year statute of limitations applied; (c) the Cedent satisfied all conditions of the Reinsurance Contracts; (d) the Cedent had settled its claims with its insureds more than six years prior to commencing the action; and (e) the Cedent had commenced the action within six-years of the London Reinsurers’ earliest denial of any of the claims.

The parties cross-moved for summary judgment, and the district court ruled in favor of the Cedent, holding that no breach of the Reinsurance Contracts occurred until the London Reinsurers refused to pay the Cedent’s claims. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Cedent, holding that the Cedent’s causes of action did not accrue until the London Reinsurers denied the Cedent’s claims.

The London Reinsurers appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which affirmed the district court’s judgment. Continue Reading »

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

March 4th, 2014 Claims Handling, Contract Interpretation, Internal Controls, New York Court of Appeals, New York State Courts, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Practice and Procedure, Reinsurance Arbitration, Reinsurance Claims, Statute of Limitations, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Comments Off on What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

Part II

In Part I (here) we determined the probable success of Reinsurer R’s motion to dismiss turns on whether the reinsurance contract expressly makes Cedent C’s presentation of claims a condition precedent to R’s obligation to pay them.  This Part II discusses in some detail New York law pertinent to contract statute-of-limitations accrual as it existed both before and after the Second Circuit’s 1996 decision in Continental Cas. Co. v. Stronghold Ins. Co., 77 F.3d 16 (2nd Cir. 1996), and before the New York Court of Appeals decided Hahn Automotive Warehouse, Inc. v. American Zurich Ins. Co., 18 N.Y.3d 765, 771 (2012).

Parts III and IV will discuss Stronghold and Hahn in some detail, and explain why we believe Stronghold misapplied New York law by concluding that the reinsurance contract before it expressly conditioned the reinsurers’ obligation to pay on the cedent presenting claims for payment. This Part II provides readers with the background required to understand better why we think that is so. Continue Reading »

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

February 24th, 2014 Claims Handling, Contract Interpretation, Internal Controls, New York Court of Appeals, New York State Courts, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Practice and Procedure, Reinsurance Claims, Statute of Limitations, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Comments Off on What is the Statute of Limitations for a Reinsurance Claim under New York Law and When does it Begin to Run?

Part I

Wendy “Bulldog” Worrylittle is a partner in a New York City law firm who has just landed her first reinsurance case. Her client, Cedent C, an insurance company domiciled and licensed to do business in New York, told her that the case involves a single excess-of-loss contract between C and participants in a reinsurance pool fronted by Reinsurer R, which is domiciled in Delaware and has its principal place of business in South Carolina. The reinsurance contract does not contain an arbitration agreement, but provides that “New York shall govern this contract,” and that R consents to personal jurisdiction in any court of competent jurisdiction in New York State.

The dispute concerns three reinsurance claims, which R has not paid. Each arose out of C’s settlements with three of  its insureds, each one of which had commenced a declaratory judgment action against C seeking a declaration of coverage for asbestos or environmental property damage or bodily injury claims brought by third parties. Cedent C tells Wendy that each of the claims was billed a month or so shy of six-years ago, the parties negotiated for a few years and R subsequently informed C in writing that it rejected the claims as presented.

Cedent C asks Wendy to commence an action against R in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Wendy notes that a statute-of-limitations issue may be looming, as she recalls that New York’s statute of limitations for a breach of contract claim is six years and that it runs from the date of the breach. In light of the potential statute-of-limitations problem, she quickly confirms her understanding outline.

Based on what she remembers and has confirmed about the statute of limitations, and on her limited knowledge of the facts, she reasons that, because the reinsurance contract expressly contemplates that C will present claims through a reinsurance intermediary, the statute of limitations cannot have begun to run at any time prior to C billing R. She does not consider whether the statute of limitations might have begun to run at any earlier time, because R could not have breached the contract at any time prior to C presenting the claims, let alone giving R an opportunity to decide whether to pay them.

So Wendy files and serves C’s complaint within the six-year period as measured from the dates on which C presented the claims. Upon the deadline for responding to the complaint, Reinsurer R, represented by Karen “Cardozo” Iknowlaw, files not an answer but a motion to dismiss on the ground that C’s claims are time barred. Before reading the papers, Wendy’s all-to-quick temper flares and she vows to seek sanctions against Karen, who, in Wendy’s view, obviously knows nothing about the law, let alone the facts.

Is Reinsurer R’s Motion to Dismiss Well-founded?

Wendy quite correctly concluded that C’s suit is for breach of contract and that New York’s breach-of -contract statute of limitations is six years, which is ordinarily calculated from the date of breach.[1] But her analysis was off the mark because she did not ascertain and analyze all the potentially relevant facts and law.

Although as a general rule the contract statute of limitations begins to run at the time of the breach, there is an exception that is particularly pertinent in the reinsurance context, and which is somewhat counterintuitive. Recall that C billed R for the claims nearly six years ago. Wendy’s client did not mention, and Wendy did not ask about, the dates on which the claims were settled and the corresponding dates by which C could reasonably have been expected to present each claim to R. Wendy apparently did not consider this information relevant to the statute of limitations issue, but it can be outcome determinative of it. Continue Reading »