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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 »