DISTRICT JUDGE ORDERS LG ELECTRONICS TO ARBITRATE IN TV PATENT SUIT

The Southern District of New York ordered LG Electronics Inc. to arbitrate with technology patent licensing company Wi-LAN Inc. a dispute over whether certain LG television models infringe patents LG does not own.  The current dispute can be traced back to a 2012 Florida suit in which Wi-LAN alleged that two of its patents for video display technology were used in LG’s flat panel televisions without their consent. LG filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the televisions were subject to a previously entered into patent licensing agreement (the “PLA”), signed by both parties. In response, Wi-LAN filed a motion to compel arbitration based on language in the PLA that mandated arbitration in the case of disagreement between the parties.  LG subsequently brought suit in New York federal court seeking an injunction against arbitration in the Florida proceeding. LG argued that the matter should not be sent to arbitration because Wi-LAN waived its right to arbitrate under the PLA by suing LG for patent infringement initially.

The court determined that Wi-LAN had not waived this right because, even though Wi-LAN did not move to compel arbitration until approximately four months after it filed its Florida suit, LG could not show that it had suffered any prejudice as a result of this delay. Prejudice, the court noted, is the “key to waiver analysis.”  Further, the court held that the PLA contains “clear and unmistakable evidence that they intended the arbitrator to resolve both issues of contract interpretation and issues of arbitrability.” Consequently, it ordered that the arbitrator, and not the court, would determine whether the arbitration clause is inapplicable because Wi-LAN “chose” litigation.  LG Electronics, Inc. v. Wi-LAN USA, Inc., No. 13-CV-2237-RA, 2014 WL 3610796 (S.D.N.Y. July 21, 2014).

This post written by Whitney Fore.

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UNDER FAA, CHICAGO COURT REFUSES TO DETERMINE WHETHER CLAIMS SHOULD BE PART OF PENDING NEW YORK ARBITRATION

A dispute involving competing actions between two competing aeroponic farming companies, FarmedHere, LLC and Just Greens, LLC (doing business as Aero Farm Systems), was simultaneously at issue in a New York arbitration, a New York state court, and a Chicago federal court. Aero Farm had originally demanded arbitration in New York based on an arbitration clause in a distribution agreement between Aero Farm and a company affiliated with FarmedHere. In response, FarmedHere filed a petition to stay the arbitration in the New York court, contending that it was not a party to the distribution agreement, and a separate case in Chicago alleging unfair trade practices and seeking a declaration regarding certain patented aeroponic farming technology. Aero Farm then moved to dismiss the Chicago action, contending that (1) FarmedHere assumed obligations under the distribution agreement, (2) FarmedHere’s claims were therefore subject to the arbitration clause, and (3) the proper jurisdiction under the FAA to determine arbitrability was New York (where the arbitration was pending), and not Chicago. After a review of the evidence, the court agreed with Aero Farm and dismissed the Chicago proceedings without prejudice. FarmedHere can attempt to refile its claims in Chicago if the New York court determines that FarmedHere’s claims are not arbitrable. FarmedHere, LLC v. Jut Greens, LLC, Case No. 14 C 370 (USDC N.D. Ill. June 16, 2014).

This post written by Michael Wolgin.

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DISTRICT COURT APPLIES NEW YORK CONVENTION, DENIES MOTION TO DISMISS PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION

In late July, a New York federal court denied Harris Corporation’s (“Harris”) motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The motion sought to dismiss HBC Solutions Inc.’s (“HBC”) Amended Petition to Compel Arbitration.  The dispute centered on a memorialized Asset Sale Agreement (“Sale Agreement”) in which HBC agreed to purchase Harris’s Broadcast Communications Division. The Sale Agreement stated that the final purchase price would be determined after closing with resolution of any pricing dispute handled through an independent accountancy to determine the “adjustment amount.” Harris did not contact the accountancy firm for resolution.

Without a federal question and without diversity of citizenship between the parties, the court looked to whether it had jurisdiction under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (“The New York Convention”) and its codification in the Federal Arbitration Act. Harris argued first that the New York Convention should not apply, as the parties were both domestic. Second, Harris argued that the additional provision in the Sale Agreement was not arbitration but an “expert determination.”  Considering Harris’s first argument, the Court noted that the New York Convention would typically not apply if both parties were citizens of the United States. However, the sale included a transfer of property in fourteen different countries, making the transaction “significantly international.” Further, the Court reasoned that the language in the Sale Agreement was evidence of a desire to adjudicate any pricing dispute through a third party, here an accountancy. As the New York Convention applies, the motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction was denied.

The Court concluded that the contract’s clearly stated intention to refer disputes to an accountant for resolution qualified as an agreement to arbitrate, and directed the respondent to serve an opposition to the Amended Petition.  Given that some reinsurance agreements provide for somewhat similar alternative dispute resolution avenues, this opinion may be of interest to reinsurance practitioners.  HBC Solutions, Inc., v. Harris Corp., No. 13-CV-6327 (JMF) (S.D.N.Y. July 18th, 2014).

This post written by Matthew Burrows.

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SPECIAL FOCUS: DISMISSAL OF MARIAH RE CAT BOND LAWSUIT

We posted previously on the Mariah Re cat bond lawsuit.  The court recently dismissed the Amended Complaint in that action with prejudice.  Rollie Goss discusses this opinion in a Special Focus article titled Cat Bond Litigation: Unambiguous Bond Documents Cause Court To Dismiss With Prejudice Complaint Seeking to Claw Back Payments Made From a Cat Bond Reinsurance Trust.

This post written by Rollie Goss.

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FEDERAL COURT REMANDS ACTION TO CONFIRM ARBITRATION AWARD: NO SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

A federal court in California recently rejected efforts to remove a state court arbitration confirmation proceeding to federal court. The underlying royalties dispute had been addressed in an arbitration, and ultimately the dispute arrived in California state court in a proceeding to confirm the arbitration award. The defendant opposed the petition for confirmation and filed a separate petition to vacate or modify the award. That pleading included a count for “Declaratory Judgment for No Liability under Federal Patent Laws.” Based on the assertion of federal relief in its own petition, the defendant filed a notice of removal. The federal court rejected the defendant’s assertion of jurisdiction and remanded the case back to state court. The court concluded that there was no subject matter jurisdiction — despite the patent-related request for relief — due to the limited nature of the proceedings before the state court. The court determined that the declaratory judgment count did not belong in the state court action in the first place, and it ruled that issues of patent law need not be decided to resolve the limited issues presented in the case. In sum, the court refused to allow the defendant “to create jurisdiction where none can possibly exist in order to bring a properly-situated case before a new forum.”

Amkor Tech., Inc. v. Tessera, Inc., 5:14-CV-03604 EJD, 2014 WL 4467715 (USDC N.D. Cal. Sept. 9, 2014).

This post written by Catherine Acree.

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COURT DETERMINES REINSURER OBLIGATION TO PAY FOR COMBINED LOSS AND EXPENSE CAPPED AT THE DOLLAR AMOUNT STATED IN THE REINSURANCE ACCEPTED SECTION OF CERTIFICATE OF REINSURANCE

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted partial summary judgment to plaintiff reinsurer seeking a declaration that the dollar amount stated in the “Reinsurance Acceptance” section of each of nine certificates of reinsurance caps the maximum amount that the reinsurer can be obligated to pay for combined loss and expenses.

The reinsurance certificates at issue in this case contained a “Subject to Clause” stating that the reinsurance was in consideration of the payment of premium and subject to the terms, conditions and amount or limits of liability set forth in the certificate and a “Reinsurance Accepted” section that stated a dollar amount of liability. The court relied upon the plain language of the certificates of reinsurance and the Second Circuit’s binding precedent in Bellefonte Reinsurance Co. v. Aetna Cas. And Sur. Co., 903 F.2d 910, 913 (2d Cir. 1990) and Unigrad Security Ins. Co. v. North River Ins. Co., 4 F.3d 1049, 1070-71 (2d Cir. 1993).

The court noted that the relevant language in the certificates of insurance at issue in this case were nearly identical to the language relied upon by the Second Circuit in Bellefonte and that the Bellefonte and Unigard courts made clear that all other contractual language must be construed in light of the certificate limit because to do otherwise would negate the reinsurance certificate language that the reinsurance is subject to the terms, conditions, and amount of liability set forth in the certificate. The court further noted that if the parties intended to exclude expenses from the total liability cap, the parties could have made that clear in the certificate language.

The court also rejected the defendant’s arguments that the “follow the fortunes” doctrine or the “in addition thereto” language in the reinsurance certificates obligated plaintiff reinsurer to pay for expenses above the certificate limit. The court again relied on Bellefonte, which held that neither the “follow the fortunes” doctrine nor the “in addition thereto” language in the reinsurance certificates exempted defense costs from the clauses limiting the reinsurers’ overall liability under the certificates, as all costs were subject to the express caps on liability set forth in the certificates. Global Reinsurance Corporation of American v. Century Indemnity Company, 1:13-cv-06577-LGS (USDC S.D.N.Y. August 15, 2014).

This post written by Kelly A. Cruz-Brown.

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RHODE ISLAND DIVISION OF INSURANCE AMENDS CREDIT FOR REINSURANCE REGULATION

Effective September 2, 2014, Insurance Regulation 59 entitled “Credit for Reinsurance” is amended to update the regulation to the current version of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Model Regulation and to make changes necessitated by amendment of Rhode Island’s Credit for Reinsurance Act, R.I. Gen Laws § 27-1.1-1 et seq.

The amendments to Insurance Regulation 59 also include the adoption of Forms CR-1, entitled “Certificate of Certified Reinsurer,” CR-F parts 1 and 2 entitled “Assumed Reinsurance as of December 31, Current Year” and “Ceded Reinsurance as of December 31, Current Year,” and CR-S entitled “Reinsurance Assumed Life Insurance, Annuities, Deposit Funds and Other Liabilities Without Life or Disability Contingencies, and Related Benefits Listed by Reinsured Company as of December 31, Current Year.”

This post written by Kelly A. Cruz-Brown.

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NEW YORK FEDERAL COURT ALLOWS ATTORNEY DISQUALIFICATION CLAIM TO PROCEED

A New York federal court recently denied a motion to dismiss a claim filed by two reinsurers, Employers Insurance Company of Wausau and National Casualty Company. The claim sought a declaration disqualifying Hunton & Williams as counsel for their reinsured, Utica Mutual Insurance Company, in a subsequent arbitration dispute concerning the reinsurers’ obligations for the amounts paid in an underlying settlement. Hunton & Williams had represented Utica in negotiating the underlying settlement and in litigating coverage issues against Utica’s insured. The reinsurers argued that, in the underlying litigation, Utica had a “common interest” with its reinsurers to minimize the liability to Utica’s insured; therefore, the Hunton & Williams attorneys, in effect, represented the reinsurers’ interests in the underlying litigation. The reinsurers argued that the rules of professional conduct prohibit the attorneys from representing Utica in the subsequent arbitration because such representation was adverse to them. The district court concluded that the reinsurers had stated a valid claim to disqualify the attorneys based on the rules governing concurrent and successive representation, noting that even if the reinsurers were not the clients of Hunton & Williams in the “traditional sense,” an inquiry into the potential conflict was still warranted. The court also found that the reinsurers had plausibly alleged that the “witness-advocate” rule may apply in the case because the attorneys may be called as witnesses in the arbitration proceeding to testify concerning the reasonableness of the underlying settlement.

Utica Mutual Ins. Co. v. Employers ins. Co. of Wausau and Nat’l Cas. Co., No. 6:12-CV-1293 (USDC N.D. N.Y. Sep. 22, 2014).

This post written by Catherine Acree.

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ARBITRATION CLAUSE FOUND UNENFORCEABLE IN SERVICE CONTRACT ACTION

Reversing the lower court, the Supreme Court of New Jersey found an arbitration provision in a service contract was unenforceable because it failed to notify the consumer clearly and unambiguously that, by entering into the agreement, the consumer was waiving the right to seek relief in a court of law. In this case, the arbitration clause stated that either party may submit any dispute “to binding arbitration”; that “the parties shall agree on a single arbitrator to resolve the dispute”; and that the arbitrator’s decision “shall be final and may be entered into judgment in any court of competent jurisdiction.” Basing its decision on the principle that an effective waiver requires a party to have full knowledge of his legal rights and intent to surrender those rights, the court found that the arbitration provision at issue failed to explain that the plaintiff was waiving her right to seek relief in court, what arbitration is, or how arbitration is different from a proceeding in a court of law. Patricia Atalese v. U.S. Legal Services Group, A-64-12 (072314) (N.J. Sept. 23, 2014).

This post written by Leonor Lagomasino.

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FEDERAL LAW GOVERNING FOREIGN RISK RETENTION GROUPS PREEMPTS STATE LAW THAT PROHIBITS MANDATORY ARBITRATION CLAUSES IN INSURANCE POLICIES

The Nebraska Supreme Court has held that Nebraska’s statute prohibiting mandatory arbitration clauses in insurance policies is preempted by the Liability Risk Retention Act of 1986 (LRRA). At issue was a professional liability insurance policy from Allied Professionals Insurance Company, a risk retention group incorporated in Arizona and registered with the Nebraska Department of Insurance as a foreign risk retention group. When a dispute arose between the policyholder and Allied, the policyholder filed an action seeking a declaration that Allied was obligated to provide coverage for an underlying civil suit pending against him. Allied moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the policy’s mandatory arbitration clause, which required binding arbitration of any dispute concerning the policy. The lower court rejected Allied’s argument that the Nebraska statute was preempted by federal law and concluded that the arbitration clause was neither valid nor enforceable. It therefore denied Allied’s motion to compel arbitration.

Nebraska’s Supreme Court reversed, finding that while the Federal Arbitration Act did not preempt Nebraska’s law, the LRRA did. The LRRA provides, in part, that a foreign risk retention group is exempt from any state law that would “regulate, directly or indirectly, the operation of a risk retention group.” Nebraska’s prohibition of arbitration clauses in insurance policies “regulates the operation of a risk retention group” within the meaning of the LRRA. As a result, the arbitration clause in the Allied policy was not prohibited by state statute, but was a valid and enforceable clause compelling arbitration. Speece v. Allied Professionals Insurance Co., 289 Neb. 75 (Neb. Sept. 19, 2014).

This post written by Renee Schimkat.

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