FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT UPHOLDS FOREIGN REINSURER’S RIGHT TO REMOVE ACTION TO FEDERAL COURT

The Court for the Middle District of Louisiana upheld a magistrate’s ruling denying a motion to remand filed by the Louisiana Commerce and Trade Association of Self Insurer’s Fund (“LCTA”), holding that the defendant foreign reinsurers (“Reinsurers”) properly removed the state court action under the Convention of the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (“New York Convention”) which Congress implemented under the Convention Act, 9 U.S.C. §§201-208. In so holding, the Court first found it had subject matter jurisdiction under the Convention Act and rejected LTCA’s argument that, because the issue of arbitrability was not raised below, the state court action did not “relate to” an arbitration as required by the New York Convention. Noting the extraordinary breadth of the New York Convention, the Court found that because LTCA’s claim against the Reinsurers arose under the Reinsurance Contract which included an arbitration clause, the state court action thus related to the arbitration clause. The Court also noted that a party is not required to first move to compel arbitration before it is permitted to remove the action and, in any case, the Reinsurers in this case had advised the state court that they intended to remove the action.

The Court then turned to LTCA’s contractual argument that the Reinsurers waived their right to remove under the Service-of-Suit Clause in the Reinsurance Contract. In this case, the Service-of-Suit clause provided that the Reinsurers agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of a court of competent jurisdiction within the United States in the event they failed to pay any amount claimed under the Reinsurance Contract. The Service-of-Suit Clause, however, further provided that nothing contained in that provision constituted a waiver of the Reinsurer’s right to remove the action to a United States District Court. The Court found that this provision was not an explicit, clear, and unequivocal waiver of the right to remove, as required under applicable law, and further found it expressly and sufficiently reserved the Reinsurer’s right to removal. Louisiana Commerce and Trade Association Self-Insurers Fund v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London Subscribing to Contract Number A1430B600/A2430B600, No 13-700-JJB-RLB (M.D. La. July 15, 2014), affirming and adopting Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendations dated May 6, 2014.

This post written by Leonor Lagomasino.

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NORTH CAROLINA AMENDS ITS CAPTIVE INSURER LAW

In October 2013, North Carolina enacted the North Carolina Captive Insurance Act, joining 30 other states with captive-enabling legislation. On July 7, 2014, North Carolina enacted House Bill 267, which amends the Act. The North Carolina Department of Insurance described the amendments as improving the Act to be “more competitive with other captive states, provide additional flexibility to the insurance commissioner in the regulation of captives, and allow for the formation of additional types of captives in North Carolina.” A copy of North Carolina House Bill 267 is available here.

This post written by Michael Wolgin.

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DEFENDANTS GRANTED LIMITATIONS-BASED SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN CAPTIVE REINSURANCE CLASS ACTION

A putative class of mortgage consumers sued Flagstar Bank and its captive reinsurer alleging that they engaged in an illegal “kickback” scheme with private mortgage insurers, which scheme artificially inflated the price of such insurance for the plaintiffs, in violation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”). The defendants claimed plaintiffs failed to file suit within RESPA’s one year statute of limitations. Plaintiffs claimed the statute was equitably tolled because defendants actively concealed the “scheme.”

After declining to grant a motion to dismiss on the pleadings, and allowing the parties to make an adequate factual record on the statute of limitation issue for summary judgment, the court granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion. The statute ran “from the date of the occurrence of the violation,” which commences upon the closing of the loan, and that each of the plaintiffs’ claims were filed in excess of a year from closing. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ equitable tolling argument, noting that in RESPA cases, “silence is insufficient to toll the statute of limitations; the defendant must have performed an independent act of concealment upon which the plaintiff justifiably relied.” The record included no evidence of active concealment on the defendants’ part. Hill v. Flagstar Bank, Case No. 12-2770 (USDC E.D. Pa. June 26, 2014).

This post written by John Pitblado.

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COURT REFUSES TO COMPEL NONSIGNATORY TO JOIN REINSURANCE ARBITRATION

On April 8, 2014, we reported on National Indemnity Company’s (“NICO”) attempt in a Nebraska federal district court to enjoin Transatlantic Reinsurance Company from commencing arbitration against NICO in Chicago and New York under various reinsurance agreements. Both arbitrations involved asbestos liability transferred to NICO, and separately reinsured by Transatlantic Re. The Nebraska court elected not to adjudicate NICO’s injunction claim, but instead decided to sever it into two, and transfer the resulting two claims to Illinois and New York.

The Illinois district court recently refused to compel arbitration against NICO, finding that NICO was a not a signatory to the underlying reinsurance agreement containing the arbitration agreement between Transatlantic Re and the cedent, Continental Insurance Company. The court also found that the language of the arbitration clause was not broad enough to include nonsignatories, and further found that NICO, by its conduct, never assumed the obligation to arbitrate. The court also interpreted the agreements between Continental and NICO and determined that the Transatlantic Re’s arbitration provisions were never incorporated in those agreements by reference. Finally, the court held that NICO was not estopped from disclaiming an obligation to arbitrate because it never asserted any rights of its own for its direct benefit under Transatlantic Re’s reinsurance agreement, notwithstanding the fact that NICO did derive certain indirect benefits. Transatlantic Reinsurance Co. v. National Indemnity Co., Case No. 1:14-cv-01535 (USDC N.D. Ill. June 24, 2014).

This post written by Michael Wolgin.

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U.K. COURT DISMISSES RETROCESSIONAIRE’S DEFENSE IN “FOLLOW THE SETTLEMENTS” DISPUTE

A British retrocessionaire sued its retroceding reinsurer in a coverage dispute regarding the “follow the settlements” doctrine. The primary insurer at issue, ACE INA Overseas Insurance Company, insured Tesco, which operated 212 commercial premises in Thailand that were destroyed in a flood in late 2011. The loss was initially estimated by adjusters to result in £90-100 million ultimate loss payout. Tesco initially demanded and made claim for £125,300,000 in losses. After interposing coverage defenses, ACE ultimately settled the claim for £82,400,000.

Tokio Marine Europe Insurance participated in an excess of loss reinsurance treaty that was triggered by the claim, and had retroceded a portion of that risk to Novae Corporate Underwriting, Ltd. Novae challenged whether it was bound by the “follow the settlements” clause, which typically precludes challenges to the cedent’s settlement on reasonableness grounds. It refused Tokio’s claim and Tokio brought suit. Novae interposed a legal defense that the “follow the settlements” clause is understood to import both a “reasonableness” of the settlement component, and a “professionalism” in adjusting component. Novae’s defense was based on the latter. It alleged ACE had failed to have the underlying coverage issues properly vetted under Thai law. Tokio moved for summary judgment on the defense. The Court granted Tokio’s motion, finding that “notwithstanding that ACE did not further investigate the coverage afforded by the Local Policy, including the scope for deductibles, and did not delve more deeply into the question whether the high rain fall was the sole source or original cause of Tesco’s loss before concluding the settlement, Novae’s defence that ACE, in failing to take these steps, failed to act properly or in a businesslike manner has no prospect of success.” Tokio Marine Europe Insurance Ltd v. Novae Corporate Underwriting Ltd., [2014] EWHC 2105 (U.K..High Ct. Justice, Comm. Div., July 2, 2014)

This post written by John Pitblado.

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TENTH CIRCUIT AFFIRMS DENIAL OF MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION BASED ON UNSIGNED AGREEMENT

The Tenth Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration in a securities fraud lawsuit brought by two investors in a company. The basis for the motion to compel was an arbitration provision contained in an unsigned copy of the company’s Operating Agreement that had been provided to the plaintiffs prior to them making their investment in the company. The Tenth Circuit ruled that the mere fact that the plaintiffs invested in the company following their receipt of an unsigned Operating Agreement did not establish that the plaintiffs agreed to, and accepted, the terms of the Operating Agreement, including its arbitration provision because under the controlling state law, a contact between the parties had not been formed. The Tenth Circuit also agreed with the district court that the plaintiffs were not equitably estopped from asserting their lack of signature on the Operating Agreement as a basis for avoiding arbitration. The Tenth Circuit acknowledged the legal principle that a party may be bound by an arbitration agreement in a contract he did not sign, if that party is seeking to enforce rights under that contract. But the court found no evidence that the plaintiffs in the instant case were seeking to enforce rights under the Operating Agreement. Bellman v. I3Carbon, LLC, No. 12-1275 (10th Cir. May 29, 2014).

This post written by Catherine Acree.

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DODD-FRANK DOES NOT BAR ARBITRATION OF CLAIMS IF ARBITRATION AGREEMENT DOES NOT EXEMPT DODD-FRANK WHISTLEBLOWER CLAIMS

The Fourth Circuit affirmed order from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia compelling arbitration of former employee’s federal claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Court held that where a plaintiff is not pursuing Dodd-Frank whistleblower claims, neither 7 U.S.C. § 26(n)(2), nor 18 U.S.C. § 1514A(e)(2) of Dodd-Frank overrides the Federal Arbitration Act’s mandate that arbitration agreements are enforceable. The Court examined the interplay between the Federal Arbitration Act and Dodd-Frank and determined that while Dodd-Frank created causes of action for whistleblowers and then protected those causes of action by barring their waiver in “predispute arbitration agreements” nothing in Dodd-Frank suggests that Congress sought to bar arbitration of every claim if the arbitration agreement in question did not exempt Dodd-Frank claims. Santoro v. Accenture Federal Services, LLC et. al., No. 12-2561 (4th Cir. May 5, 2014).

This post written by Kelly A. Cruz-Brown.

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COURT DENIES RENEWED ATTEMPT TO DISMISS DEFENSES IN REINSURANCE DISPUTE ASSOCIATED WITH ASBESTOS-RELATED LIABILITIES

In this case, plaintiffs sought leave to renew their motion to dismiss certain retention-related and assignment affirmative defenses based on provisions of certain Loss Portfolio Transfer (LPT) agreements, and to re-argue the motion to dismiss based on their contention that the court: (1) overlooked arguments raised by the parties; (2) determined issues sua sponte without factual and legal support; and (3) misapplied precedent to the undisputed facts at issue.  The court denied plaintiffs’ motions.  The court determined that plaintiffs had failed to refute defendant’s assertion that the LPT may have transferred all of the plaintiffs’ relevant interests and constituted an impermissible assignment because plaintiffs failed to provide documentation showing that the cap in the LPT agreements could be exceeded.  The court also decided that plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of showing that the defendant’s retention defenses were without merit as a matter of law.  The court determined that the LPT did not satisfy the definition of treaty insurance because it was not obtained in advance of coverage. Furthermore, the court determined that the parties’ statements concerning the extent of plaintiffs’ assignment of their interests in the insurance certificates in question were not fatal to defendant’s assignment defenses as a whole.  Granite State Ins. Co. v. Transatlantic Reinsurance Co., Index No. 652506/2012 (Sup. Ct of N.Y., County of N.Y. June 18, 2014).

This post written by Kelly A. Cruz-Brown.

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COURT FINDS COMMUNICATIONS WITH REINSURERS DISCOVERABLE IN COVERAGE DISPUTE

A federal court in Minnesota determined that an umbrella insurer’s communications with its reinsurers are discoverable in a coverage dispute. The case is titled National Union v. Donaldson Co., and the focus is on the scope of coverage that National Union is required to provide to its insured under certain umbrella policies in connection with the insured’s liability in two underlying lawsuits. One of the issues in the case is whether a “batch clause” in the primary policy was applicable to the umbrella policies. The “batch clause” affects how many deductibles are applicable, i.e., whether it is possible to “batch claims” under the umbrella policies so that only one deductible should be applied or whether separate deductibles must be satisfied.

The insured filed a motion to compel production of, among other things, National Union’s communications with its reinsurers, arguing that the communications were relevant to its bad faith counterclaim because National Union had taken the position that only a certain amount of policy limits could be available under the primary policy and that it was not possible to “batch claims” under the umbrella policies. The insured contended that what National Union said to its reinsurers on the issue would shed light on the timing of National Union’s view of the batch clause and its application for the primary and the umbrella layers of coverage, as well as National Union’s understanding of the potential indemnity exposure under the various policies. The Magistrate Judge granted the motion without discussion, concluding only that the standard in Rule 26(b)(1) had been met. The District Court overruled National Union’s objections to the Magistrate Judge’s order, noting a split of authority on the discoverability of communications with reinsurers in bad faith cases, and concluding that the ruling was not contrary to law or clearly erroneous.

National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. Donaldson Co., Inc., No. 10-4948 (USDC D. Minn. June 24, 2014).

This post written by Catherine Acree.

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ARBITRATORS, NOT COURTS, TO DECIDE AVAILABILITY OF CLASS ARBITRATION UNDER PARTIES’ AGREEMENT

A federal court in New York has held that arbitrators, not courts, should decide whether class arbitration is available under an arbitration agreement entered into between private parties. The court had previously compelled the arbitration of plaintiffs’ claims against certain defendants and stayed the remainder of the action. The issue now presented was on defendants’ motion to preclude plaintiffs from pursuing class arbitration and to require individual arbitrations of those claims. In determining that the issue of class arbitration was one for the arbitrators, the court considered prior U.S. Supreme Court and lower court holdings, but found no binding precedent on the issue. Because the court had already ruled on the enforceability of the parties’ agreement to arbitrate, the interpretation of that agreement – to decide whether or not it allowed for class arbitration – was “a matter within the arbitrator’s competence.” Defendants’ request to order individual arbitrations was therefore denied. The court declined to reach the parties’ other arguments, including whether plaintiffs had waived or conceded the class arbitration issue, finding those matters also best left to the arbitrators. In Re A2P SMS Antitrust Litigation, Case No. 12-CV-2656 (USDC S.D.N.Y. May 29, 2014).

This post written by Renee Schimkat.

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