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Archive for the ‘Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance’ Category

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 »

Reinsurance Nuts & Bolts: What is an Aggregate Extraction Clause?

August 10th, 2010 Accumulation of Loss, Aggregate Cover, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Reinsurance Allocation, Reinsurance Claims Comments Off on Reinsurance Nuts & Bolts: What is an Aggregate Extraction Clause?

A.   Introduction

Over a year ago we ran a Reinsurance Nuts & Bolts feature entitled “Aggregate Extension Clauses”  (here).  To our considerable surprise, that article was, and remains, one of our more popular ones. 

At the close of the article we said (tongue in cheek):  “If you, the reader, have gotten this far, then perhaps you would like to delve into a discussion of ‘Aggregate Extraction Clauses.’  But these clauses – which conjure up some of the more frightening scenes from Marathon Man (1976) – are better left for another day.  .  .  . ”  Brace yourselves, for we fear that day has arrived.  .  .  .       Continue Reading »

Reinsurance Nuts & Bolts: A Potpourri of Reinsurance Issues: Gulf Ins. Co. v Transatlantic Reins. Co. (1st Dep’t Oct. 1, 2009) (Part II of a Two-Part Post).

November 20th, 2009 Appellate Practice, Contract Interpretation, New York State Courts, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance Comments Off on Reinsurance Nuts & Bolts: A Potpourri of Reinsurance Issues: Gulf Ins. Co. v Transatlantic Reins. Co. (1st Dep’t Oct. 1, 2009) (Part II of a Two-Part Post).


In Part I of this two-part post (here) we discussed the background and procedural history of Gulf/Transatlantic and how New York’s Appellate Division, First Department resolved the issues of:  (a) the amount of reinsurance accepted by Gerling; and (b) whether the trial court should have granted Gerling’s motion for summary judgment on Gulf’s reformation claim.  This Part II covers the remaining three issues whether:  (a) the 1998 First Union Policy “attached” to the 1999 Treaty; (b) Gerling reinsured the policies Gulf issued to a subsidiary of the General Electric Company; and (c) Gerling established a question of material fact concerning whether it was entitled to rescind the 1999 Treaty.    Continue Reading »

Reinsurance Nuts & Bolts: A Potpourri of Reinsurance Issues Courtesy of Gulf Ins. Co. v Transatlantic Reins. Co. (Part I of a Two-Part Post)

November 17th, 2009 Appellate Practice, Contract Interpretation, New York State Courts, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Rescission and Reformation 1 Comment »


Today we look at a reinsurance case recently decided by the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York’s intermediate appellate court for cases originating in New York County (Manhattan) and certain other counties in the New York metropolitan area.  We would not characterize Gulf Ins. Co. v Transatlantic Reins. Co., ___ A.D.3d ___,  2009 NY Slip Op. 06788 (1st Dep’t Oct. 1, 2009) (copy here), as a ground-breaker, but it involves a number of interesting  issues, including the interpretation and construction of a quota share treaty, course of performance, reformation and rescission. 

Substantive reinsurance cases are a relatively rare breed to begin with (especially in recent years), and cases that discuss a broad range of issues in some depth are rarer still.  That makes Gulf/Transatlantic worthy of some attention, especially to those interested in learning a few reinsurance law basics.  Hat tip to my friend and former colleague James P. Tenney for bringing the case to our attention.

Continue Reading »

Reinsurance Nuts & Bolts: Aggregate Extension Clauses in Excess-of-Loss Reinsurance Contracts

June 1st, 2009 Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance Comments Off on Reinsurance Nuts & Bolts: Aggregate Extension Clauses in Excess-of-Loss Reinsurance Contracts


I remember when I first heard the term “aggregate extension clause.”  I was a couple of years out of law school and just getting my feet wet in reinsurance law and practice.  Naturally, I had no idea of what an aggregate extension clause was or, for that matter, why someone would want to call something an “aggregate extension clause” in the first place, unless the principal objective was to confuse the reader.  I envisioned some densely worded, obtuse, complex and hopelessly confusing provision designed to accomplish some obscure yet important purpose, the relevance of which was surely beyond my ken.  I decided  that I could read up on the clause, or ask a colleague about it, but I feared that the explanation – written or oral – would be at least as difficult to decipher as the clause itself, and probably more so.  So I did my best to avoid even having to think about aggregate extension clauses — let alone deal with them — for as long as possible.

Eventually, of course, I had to face my fears and grapple with the seemingly elusive concept of “aggregate extension.”  I quickly learned that my initial assessment was only partly correct:  aggregate extension clauses are indeed densely worded, but the purpose of the clause is far more straightforward than I once assumed.  Once I learned a little bit about the clause, I realized (or at least thought) that I could impress – or perhaps awe – my less experienced colleagues with it, and might even be able to use it to show my more experienced colleagues that I knew something about reinsurance.   While I can’t say I obtained as much mileage out of my newfound knowledge as I expected,  I am nevertheless glad that I invested a little time into learning about aggregate extension clauses.

In this Reinsurance Nuts & Bolts post we briefly discuss in very simple and basic terms what an aggregate extension clause is, and what it does.  We also provide the reader with an example of some of the operative wording of an aggregate extension clause.  Our discussion is not intended to be comprehensive; if anything, it is oversimplified.  But it should give the reader a basic understanding of the topic.    Continue Reading »

Reinsurance Nuts & Bolts: Honorable Engagement Clauses

May 18th, 2009 Arbitrability, Authority of Arbitrators, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Reinsurance Arbitration 1 Comment »


In today’s Nuts & Bolts post we take a brief look at honorable engagement clauses, which are sometimes referred to as “honorable undertaking” clauses.  Honorable engagement clauses are, for practical purposes, a species of choice of law clause.   Generally, they confer upon arbitration panels a degree of freedom to depart from the strict rules of law and evidence, and to interpret the contract as an honorable engagement rather than literally according to its terms.  They are premised on the now arguably outmoded historical concept that a reinsurance contract is more than a contract, but an honorable undertaking, a deal that  is closed when the parties shake hands over a cocktail (or three), and one by which the parties are honor-bound to abide.  They also recognize that reinsurance is an arcane business with its own peculiar set of customs, practices and norms, and that, if the parties so agree, arbitrators should be reasonably free to apply these norms in deciding a case, even if a court faced with the same facts would or could not. 

Honorable engagement clauses are more common in older reinsurance contracts than in those written today.  But many reinsurance disputes arise out of long-tail asbestos or environmental claims arising out of decades-old contracts, a great many of which contain these clauses.  And the clauses can have some significant implications in those disputes. Continue Reading »