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Archive for the ‘Insurance Contracts’ Category

S.K.A.V. v. Independent Specialty Ins. Co.: Fifth Circuit Decides Louisiana Statute Invalidating Arbitration Agreements in Insurance Contracts Applies to Surplus Lines Policies

June 27th, 2024 Anti-Arbitration Statutes, Applicability of Federal Arbitration Act, Application to Compel Arbitration, Arbitrability, Arbitrability | Clear and Unmistakable Rule, Arbitrability | Existence of Arbitration Agreement, Arbitration Agreement Invalid, Arbitration Law, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Clear and Unmistakable Rule, Delegation Agreements, Existence of Arbitration Agreement, FAA Chapter 1, FAA Preemption of State Law, FAA Section 2, FAA Section 4, Federal Arbitration Act Enforcement Litigation Procedure, Federal Arbitration Act Section 2, Federal Arbitration Act Section 4, Formation of Arbitration Agreement, Gateway Disputes, Gateway Questions, Insurance Contracts, Louisiana Supreme Court, McCarran-Ferguson Act, Motion to Compel Arbitration, Petition to Compel Arbitration, Practice and Procedure, Pre-Award Federal Arbitration Act Litigation, Questions of Arbitrability, Section 2, Section 4, State Arbitration Law, State Arbitration Statutes, State Courts, Statutory Interpretation and Construction, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit No Comments »

Introduction: LA Stat. Ann. § 22.868 and its Application to Surplus Lines Policies

surplus lines policy regulation

Louisiana has a statute, LA Stat. Ann. § 22.868, that courts have construed to make unenforceable arbitration provisions in insurance contracts, including surplus lines policies. The statute has an exception or savings provision that removes from the statute’s scope “a forum or venue selection clause in a policy form that is not subject to approval by the Department of Insurance[,]” LA Stat. Ann. § 22.868(D), for example, a venue- or forum-selection provision in a surplus lines policy.

The question before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in S.K.A.V. v. Independent Specialty Ins. Co., ___ F.4th ___, No. 23-30293, slip op. (5th Cir. June 5, 2024), was whether the statute invalidates arbitration provisions contained in surplus lines insurance policies, that is, whether arbitration provisions in such contracts fall within the subsection (D) exception. Predicting how it thinks the Louisiana Supreme Court would rule if faced with the question, the Court held that the subsection (D) exemption did not apply, and accordingly, the statute rendered unenforceable arbitration agreements in surplus lines contracts. The Court accordingly affirmed the judgment of the district court, which denied the arbitration proponent’s motion to compel arbitration.

Pushing the Elephant Out of the Room. . .

Before taking a closer look at how the Court arrived at its conclusion, let’s deal with the “elephant in the room.” Why is the Court in a case governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) even considering enforcing a state statute that would (or could) render unenforceable an FAA-governed arbitration agreement? Doesn’t the FAA preempt state law that puts arbitration agreements on a different footing than other contracts?

The answer is “undoubtedly”, but, as insurance and reinsurance practitioners know, under the McCarran-Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1011, et seq., “[n]o Act of Congress shall be construed to invalidate, impair, or supersede any law enacted by any State for the purpose of regulating the business of insurance, or which imposes a fee or tax upon such business, unless such Act specifically relates to the business of insurance. . . .” 15 U.S.C. § 1012(b).

LA Stat. Ann. § 22.868 has been construed to be one that “regulat[es] the business insurance[,]” and the FAA is not an “Act [that] specifically relates to the business of insurance. . . .” Section 22.868 thus “reverse preempts” the FAA under McCarran-Ferguson. See slip op. at 2. (See, e.g., here.)

The Court’s Interpretation of Section 22.868, Including its Surplus Lines Policy Exemption

  LA Stat. Ann. § 22.868, provides, in pertinent part: Continue Reading »

Attorney Fees: Seventh Circuit to Consider Whether Exceeding Powers Challenge to Arbitrators’ Attorney’s Fees Award Warrants FRAP 38 Sanctions

June 19th, 2024 Appellate Practice, Application to Vacate, Arbitration Law, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Attorney Fee Shifting, Attorney Fees and Sanctions, Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, Bad Faith, Challenging Arbitration Awards, Confirmation of Awards, Exceeding Powers, FAA Chapter 1, FAA Section 10, FAA Section 11, FAA Section 9, Federal Arbitration Act Section 10, Federal Arbitration Act Section 11, Federal Arbitration Act Section 9, Insurance Contracts, Judicial Review of Arbitration Awards, Petition or Application to Confirm Award, Petition to Vacate Award, Post-Award Federal Arbitration Act Litigation, Practice and Procedure, Retrospectively-Rated Premium Contracts, Section 10, Section 11, Section 9, Uncategorized, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Vacate, Vacate Award | 10(a)(4), Vacate Award | Attorney Fees, Vacate Award | Attorney's Fees, Vacatur No Comments »


Attorney's Fees | Contract InterpretationMost challenges to arbitration awards—including attorney fees awards— fail because the standards of review are so demanding. The bar is exceedingly high by design. Otherwise—the reasoning goes—courts would “open[] the door to the full-bore legal and evidentiary appeals that can rende[r] informal arbitration merely a prelude to a more cumbersome and time-consuming judicial review process and bring arbitration theory to grief in post-arbitration process.” Hall St. Assocs., L.L.C. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 588 (2008) (citations and quotations omitted; some parenthetical material in original).

But the narrow margin for success is not a free pass for challengers to advance arguments that do not, in a court’s view, have a legitimate, good faith basis in the facts and the law, or in a reasonable argument for reversal or modification of the law.

A recent case in point is Circuit Judge Easterbrook’s decision in American Zurich Ins. Co. v. Sun Holdings, Inc., No. 23-3134, slip op. at 1 (7th Cir. June 3, 2024) (Easterbrook, J.). The award challenger claimed the arbitrators exceeded their power by imposing as a sanction an award of $175,000.00 in attorney fees because the contract allegedly barred such an attorney fees award. The problem was that the arbitrators at least arguably interpreted the language in question and concluded that it did not bar the award of attorney fees in question. Moreover,  the attorney fees  award comported with New York law and the American Arbitration Association Commercial Rules, both of which the parties made part of their agreement.

The Seventh Circuit has signaled that it believes there was no good faith basis for the challenge and that the challenger has offered none, apart from its insistence that its interpretation was the only one even barely plausible. The challenger appears to have further undermined its litigation position by engaging in what the Seventh Circuit believes was recalcitrant behavior in the arbitration proceedings, and, according to the Court, not acknowledging the existence of controlling Seventh Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court authority controverting its position. The challenger compounded that by asserting—contrary to FAA Sections 10 and 11— additional award challenges that the Court concluded were simply attempts to second guess various determinations made by the arbitrators.

That this strategy backfired should come as no surprise. It resulted in the Court issuing an order to show cause providing the challenger 14 days “to show cause why sanctions, including but not limited to an award of attorneys’ fees, should not be imposed for this frivolous appeal.” Zurich, slip op. at 5 (citing Fed. R. App. P. 38). At the time of this writing no decision has been made by the Court concerning whether it will, in fact, impose sanctions.

Background: The Award of Attorney Fees

Petitioner Sun Holdings, Inc. (“Sun” or the “Award Challenger”) is a Texas- Continue Reading »

Second Circuit Holds that “Collapse” Provision in All Risks Policy does not Cover Severely Cracked, but Still Standing, Basement Walls

April 9th, 2019 Insurance Contracts, Insurance Coverage, Property Insurance Comments Off on Second Circuit Holds that “Collapse” Provision in All Risks Policy does not Cover Severely Cracked, but Still Standing, Basement Walls

Homeowners and All Risk policies often provide coverage for “collapse” of all or part of a structure. Is coverage for “collapse” limited to an abrupt collapse of a wall or building, or does it include situations where cracking or crumbling has substantially impaired the structural integrity of the wall or building, but has not resulted in the structure’s literal collapse?

The answer to that question may depend on how the insurer defined “collapse.” For example, in Beach v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., 205 Conn. 246 (1987) the Connecticut Supreme Court held that a policy that provided coverage for “collapse,” but did not define what that term meant, was ambiguous, and thus included coverage for the “substantial impairment of the structural integrity of a building.” 205 Conn. at 251, 253.

In Valls v. Allstate Ins. Company, ___ F.3d ___, No. 17-3495-cv, slip op. (2d Cir. April 2, 2019), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, applying Connecticut law, and construing a collapse provision that defined “collapse” in some detail, held that provision did not provide coverage for extensive cracking of basement walls, which may have substantially impaired the structural integrity of the walls, but did not result in their literal “collapse.” See slip op. at 14.

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

TIme-on-the-Risk 1

TIme-on-the-Risk 1

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

Time-on-the-Risk 2

Time-on-the-Risk 2

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 »

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  


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).

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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




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?

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 »