APPEALS COURT VACATES ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STOP ARBITRATION

In Milan Express Co., Inc. v. Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assur. Co., Inc., No. 14-5193 (6th Cir. Oct. 24, 2014), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s order granting plaintiff’s motion to stop arbitration.   The Sixth Circuit determined that the district court’s order determining that arbitrability of the dispute was within the court’s province, which was the basis for granting plaintiff’s motion to stop the arbitration, failed to identify what the district court found to be ambiguous about the parties’ manifest intent to submit all disputes, including disputes regarding the enforceability of any provision, exclusively to arbitration.  The Sixth Circuit, relying on Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson,561 U.S. 63, 67–70 (2010) and on a de novo review of the arbitration agreement, found that the parties manifestly intended to submit the threshold question of arbitrability to the arbitrator and not the court.

This post written by John Pitblado.

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COURT DENIES PETITION FOR ORDER CONFIRMING FINAL ARBITRATION AWARD AND ENTRY OF JUDGMENT

In First State Ins. Co. v. Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co., No. 13-cv-11322-IT (U.S.D.C. D. Mass. Oct. 21, 2014), a petition for an order to confirm a final arbitration award and entry of judgment was denied.  The court determined that although labeled a “Final Award,” the arbitration panel expressed no intention to resolve all claims submitted in the demands for arbitration.  Instead, the award focused on the plaintiff’s motion regarding contract interpretation, which directed the parties back to the panel with a proposed schedule leading to a hearing on remaining matters.  Moreover, although the panel proceeded to address the issues in phases, the parties did not jointly agree to bifurcation of the arbitration. Rather the record in the case showed that the defendant objected to bifurcation of the issues at an organizational meeting with plaintiff and the panel when it argued that the panel should consider all of the issues before it at the same time.

This post written by John Pitblado.

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SEVENTH CIRCUIT DECLINES TO REQUIRE PRE-PLEADING SECURITY FROM URUGUAY’S STATE-OWNED REINSURER AND REFUSES TO COMPEL ARBITRATION

The Plaintiff, Pine Top Receivables of Illinois, LLC brought an action in Illinois federal court against Banco de Seguros del Estado, an entity wholly owned by Uruguay. Pine Top claimed that Banco de Seguros owed Pine Top $2,352,464.08 under certain reinsurance contracts. Pine Top’s complaint sought to compel arbitration, and alternately sought entry of judgment for breach of contract. Banco Seguros answered the complaint, and Pine Top moved to strike the answer for failure to post pre-pleading security as required under Illinois’s unauthorized foreign insurer statute, § 215 ILCS 5/123(5).

The trial court held, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed on interlocutory appeal, that Banco Seguros was not required to post security, following Second Circuit precedent which held that an attachment of any sort (like pre-judgment security) was violative of the broad grant of immunity to foreign governments afforded by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

The Seventh Circuit also affirmed the trial court’s ruling denying Pine Top’s motion to compel arbitration, finding that Pine Top’s rights under the reinsurance contracts, which had been assigned to it by the Liquidator of the defunct primary insurer that originally entered into the agreements with Banco Seguros, were limited to the collections of certain debts, but it was not assigned all rights and duties under the treaties, and thus was not assigned the right to arbitrate. Pine Top Receivables of Illinois, LLC v. Banco de Seguros del Estado, No. 13–1364 (7th Cir. Nov. 7, 2014)

This post written by John Pitblado.

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COURT REFUSES TO SEAL “SUBSTANTIVE RULINGS” IN ARBITRATION AWARD

A federal court in Michigan was recently presented with a motion to seal the briefing associated with a motion to confirm an arbitration award. The arbitration concerned a reinsurance dispute and had been conducted pursuant to a confidentiality agreement that required the final award and any court submissions be kept confidential. Noting the “long-established legal tradition of public access to court documents,” the court ordered that only limited portions of the Final Award should be sealed – those that identified non-parties. The court refused to seal other portions of the award, rejecting the argument that public filing of the award’s “substantive rulings” could harm the reinsurer’s financial interests. The reinsurer argued that other reinsureds could cite to the blanket pronouncements in the Final Award to support their claims, despite the confidential nature of the arbitration. The court ruled that unlike situations where the arbitration award contains confidential business data or trade secrets and therefore is properly sealed, the request to seal the Final Award in this case was made merely to prevent unhelpful portions of the Final Award from becoming public in an effort to avoid future litigation. The court cited Sixth Circuit precedent holding a party’s interest in shielding prejudicial information from public view, standing alone, cannot justify the sealing of that information.  Amerisure Mut. Ins. Co. v. Everest Reinsurance Co., No. 14-CV-13060, 2014 WL 5481107 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 29, 2014).

This post written by Catherine Acree.

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COURT DENIES MOTION TO COMPEL PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS RELATING TO REINSURANCE COVERAGE

A federal district court has denied that part of an insured’s motion seeking to compel the insurer to produce all documents relating to its reinsurance coverage. The court ordered the production of the reinsurance agreements themselves, but found the request for all other reinsurance information was “plainly too broad.” The court also recognized the possible application of the common interest doctrine to the communications between the insurer and its reinsurer to support the denial. As to the other documents sought, the court granted that part of the motion seeking documents relating to certain drafting history of the insurance policy at issue, but denied the remaining part of the motion to compel, which sought documents ranging from the insurer’s personnel files for all personnel involved in the claim to the insurer’s loss reserve information. Harleysville Lake States Ins. Co. v. Lancor Equities, Ltd., No. 13-CV-6391 (USDC N.D. Ill. Oct. 31, 2014).

This post written by Renee Schimkat.

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UNITED STATES TAX COURT RULES ON CAPTIVE INSURANCE ARRANGEMENT

In 2003 and 2004, the Internal Revenue Service disallowed deductions taken by SHI Group, a subsidiary of the Swedish company Securitas AB, for insurance expenses related to a captive insurance arrangement established by Securitas AB. SHI Group, which maintained an office in California, petitioned the disallowance of these deductions in the United States Tax Court. The Internal Revenue Code permits deductions for insurance premiums as business expenses. Although the insurance premiums may be deductible, amounts placed in reserve as self-insurance are not and can only be deducted at the time the loss for which the reserve was established is actually incurred. While neither the Code nor the regulations define insurance, courts have looked primarily to four critieria in deciding whether an arrangement constitutes insurance for income tax purposes: (1) the arrangement must involve insurable risks; (2) the arrangement must shift the risk of loss to the insurer; (3) the insurer must distribute the risk of loss to the insurer; and (4) the arrangement must be insurance in the commonly accepted sense. Based on the complicated facts before it, the Tax Court determined that the captive arrangement at issue constituted insurance, allowing deductions for the related expenses. Securitas Holding, Inc. v. Commissioner, No. 21206-10, T.C. Memo 2014-225 (U.S.T.C. Oct. 29, 2014).

This post written by Leonor Lagomasino.

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COURT DISMISSES ALL CLAIMS BROUGHT BY INSURED AGAINST REINSURANCE INTERMEDIARY AND AGENT IN CONNECTION WITH FRAUDULENT SCHEME AND ILLUSORY AGREEMENT

A federal district court has dismissed all claims brought against American Special Risk (ASR), a reinsurance intermediary and agent for insurer Signet, by insured Car Sense. Car Sense sued Signet and ASR in connection with a Buy Back Guarantee program that Signet offered as a way to increase customer participation in certain incentive programs offered by Car Sense. Signet represented that the BBG program was 100% secured via a reinsurance agreement with Hannover Re. ASR acted as Signet’s reinsurance intermediary and agent in negotiating and procuring the reinsurance agreement. As alleged, though Signet represented that the BBG was a legitimate insurance product, the BBG was in fact a fraudulent scheme engineered to generate one-time fees. Moreover, the reinsurance agreement did not provide for 100% security of the BBG as Signet represented but was, in fact, illusory. Car Sense sued Signet and ASR for various claims ranging from breach of contract to fraud.

The court dismissed all claims against ASR finding, in large part, that ASR did not owe any duty, and had not made any misrepresentations, to Car Sense. The court also gave notice of its intention to dismiss all claims against Signet for Car Sense’s failure to serve Signet within the time required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Car Sense, Inc. v. American Special Risk, LLC, No. 13-CV-5661 (USDC E.D. Pa. Oct. 24, 2014).

This post written by Renee Schimkat.

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NEW YORK APPELLATE COURT DISMISSES CLAIMS AGAINST REINSURER AND ITS CLAIMS ADMINISTRATOR

In what began as a dispute between OneBeacon America Insurance Company and its insured, Colgate, over OneBeacon’s asserted right to control the defense of claims against Colgate in connection with numerous personal injury suits, Colgate sued OneBeacon’s reinsurer, National Indemnity Company (“NICO), and its affiliated claims adjuster, Resolute Management. Colgate alleged that OneBeacon’s contractual relationship with NICO and Resolute created a conflict of interest because they served a dual role as both OneBeacon’s reinsurer and the claims adjuster under those policies. Colgate wanted to defend the actions against it, while NICO and Resolute wanted to settle the cases to minimize the legal expenses.

Colgate sued NICO and Resolute under several theories, including declaratory relief, breach of contract, tortious interference, breach of the implied covenant of fair dealing, and a statutory claim under Massachusetts law for unfair deceptive conduct. After the lower court only partially dismissed these claims, NICO and Resolute appealed. The appellate court dismissed all claims against NICO and Resolute. Central to the court’s ruling was the absence of a contract between Colgate and NICO or between Colgate and Resolute. Moreover, the agreement between NICO and Resolute provided that the agreement could not be assigned and that it did not confer any rights on third parties. Absent contractual privity or an assigment, Colgate could not assert any claims against NICO or Resolute despite their dual roles as OneBeacon’s reinsurer and Colgate’s claims administrator. OneBeacon America Insurance Co. v. Colgate-Palmolive, Index No. 651193/11 (N.Y. App. Div. Oct. 28, 2014).

This post written by Leonor Lagomasino.

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THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT REFERS ISSUE OF SCOPE OF ARBITRATION TO ARBITRATORS

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that it lacked jurisdiction over an interlocutory appeal of an order that would direct the arbitrator to include year 2008 in a pending arbitration proceeding brought under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (MPPAA). Central States assessed liability against US foods in 2008 and 2009 because US foods withdrew in part from an underfunded multiemployer pension plan. US Foods requested arbitration pursuant to the MPPAA for the year 2009, but failed to do so for year 2008. In return, Central States sued US Foods to collect the 2008 assessment. US Foods requested that the district court order the arbitrator in the pending arbitration regarding the 2009 assessment to consider also the amount owed for 2008, but the district court refused.

While section 16(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) allows interlocutory appeals from orders denying requests for arbitration under section 4 of the FAA, US Funds could not rely on the FAA to establish appellate jurisdiction to review the district court’s denial because section 4 pertains only to arbitration requests contained in written agreements. This arbitration did not concern any written agreement. Furthermore, the Seventh Circuit noted, because arbitration regarding year 2009 was ongoing, the issue as to whether year 2008 should be included in said arbitration must first be decided by the arbitrator, not the court. Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund v. US Foods, Inc., No. 13-1566 (7th Cir. July 30, 2014).

This post written by Whitney Fore.

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ARBITRATION DENIED IN MORTGAGE LIFE INSURANCE DISPUTE WHERE NEITHER NOTE NOR POLICY REFERENCED ARBITRATION AGREEMENT

A court refused to compel arbitration in a dispute surrounding the cancellation of and failure to pay life insurance benefits under a debtor group life insurance policy. The relevant note and insurance policy did not contain an arbitration agreement. The defendants, however, attempted to compel arbitration based on arbitration agreements formed in connection with three other loans made to the plaintiff. The court was not persuaded as none of the three transactions was directly connected with the mortgage and life insurance policy that formed the basis of the plaintiff’s claims. The arbitration agreements did not reference the relevant note and lender, but instead referenced the other notes and lenders not at issue in the dispute. The court therefore concluded that there was “no evidence that Plaintiff agreed to arbitrate disputes arising out of the” mortgage, note, or insurance policy. Bucher v. American Health & Life Insurance Co., Case No. 2:14-cv-659 (USDC W.D. Pa. Aug. 28, 2014).

This post written by Michael Wolgin.

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