A Magistrate Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has recommended that a default judgment totaling more than $221 million be entered against the Islamic Republic of Iran and in favor of insurers who paid claims to their insureds for property damage, business interruption and other losses arising out of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. In doing so, however, the magistrate also recommended denying the insurers’ application for an additional $305 million reflecting payments made under reinsurance contracts.
The plaintiff-insurers argued that they were entitled to all amounts they were compelled to expend under applicable policies of insurance and reinsurance resulting from 9/11. The court concluded, however, that the insurers were only entitled to recover under the doctrine of subrogation. The court explained that subrogation allows an insurer to “stand in the shoes” of its insured for purposes of seeking payment from third-parties whose wrongdoing caused the losses for which the insurer was obligated.
While finding that the insurers were subrogated to over $221 million in damages under direct insurance policies, the court recommended denying their application for over $305 million in losses incurred under reinsurance contracts with primary insurers that paid claims relating to 9/11. Noting that reinsurance contracts operate solely between the reinsurer and the reinsured primary insurer, the court stated that there is no contractual privity between a reinsurer and the policyholder who suffered the initial loss. Because the damaged policyholders have no rights under the reinsurance contracts at issue, the magistrate judge found that plaintiffs, as reinsurers, have no subrogation rights as to the 9/11-related losses sustained by these policyholders.