Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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Plaintiffs, domestic entities, entered into an insurance contract providing coverage for a Texas townhome complex that they own and operate. The Policy was underwritten by Lloyd’s, members of a foreign organization, and contains a mandatory arbitration provision, providing that the seat of the Arbitration shall be in New York and the Arbitration Tribunal shall apply the law of New York. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused an estimated $5,660,000 in damages to the townhome complex. A third-party claims administrator for Lloyd’s concluded that the Policy’s deductible was $3,600,000.Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Western District of Washington asserting breach of contract, failure to communicate policy changes, and unfair claims handling practices in violation of Washington law, asserting that the deductible should be $600,000. Lloyd’s moved to compel arbitration and stay proceedings, arguing that the Policy’s arbitration provision falls within the scope of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Plaintiffs did not contest that the arbitration provision falls within the Convention’s scope but argued the provision is unenforceable because Washington law specifically prohibits the enforcement of arbitration clauses in insurance contracts. Plaintiffs cited the McCarran-Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. 1011–15, which provides that state insurance law preempts conflicting federal law. On interlocutory review, the Ninth Circuit upheld an order granting Lloyd’s motion. Article II, Section 3 of the Convention is self-executing, and therefore is not an “Act of Congress” subject to reverse-preemption under the McCarran-Ferguson Act. View "CLMS Management Services Limited Partnership v, Amwins Brokerage of Georgia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reaffirmed in this case that undocumented aliens who are injured while working for a Nevada employer may be eligible for monetary disability benefits, holding that these monetary benefits, paid by the insurer, do not conflict with federal law or undermine the Legislature's intent.Respondent, an undocumented Nevadan, was severely injured while working for High Point Construction and applied for permanent total disability (PTD) status. Associated Risk Management (ARM), High Point's insurance administrator, denied the request. An appeals officer reversed and granted Respondent PTD status pursuant to the "odd-lot doctrine." ARM petitioned for judicial review, arguing that the appeals officer committed legal error by granting PTD to an undocumented alien. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) undocumented aliens are not precluded from receiving disability benefits under Nevada's workers' compensation laws; (2) although federal law prohibits employers from knowingly employing an undocumented alien, it does not prohibit insurers from compensating undocumented aliens for injuries they sustain while working; and (3) the appeals officer's decision was based on substantial evidence. View "Associated Risk Management, Inc. v. Ibanez" on Justia Law

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This suit arose out of an insurance policy SWEPCO, a public electric utility serving Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas, purchased from Underwriters for coverage associated with the construction of a power plant in Louisiana. On appeal, SWEPCO challenged the district court's order granting Underwriters' motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the district court's order was not a final, appealable order within the meaning of the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, 9 U.S.C. 201-08, or the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1-16. Accordingly, the court dismissed the case for lack of appellate jurisdiction. View "Southwestern Elec. Power Co., et al. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds of London" on Justia Law

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Pine Top, an insurer, sued Banco, an entity wholly owned by Uruguay, claiming that Banco owes $2,352,464.08 under reinsurance contracts. The complaint sought to compel arbitration but alternately proposed that the court enter judgment for breach of contract. Pine Top moved to strike Banco’s answer for failure to post security under Illinois insurance law. The district court denied the motion and later denied the motion to compel arbitration. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which prohibits attaching a foreign state’s property, thereby preventing application of the Illinois security requirement, 28 U.S.C. 1609. Banco did not waive its immunity in the manner allowed by that law and Pine Top forfeited contentions that the McCarran-Ferguson Act allows a state rule to govern. On the arbitration question, the court held that denials of motions to compel arbitration under the Panama Convention are immediately appealable under 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(1)(B), but that the contract language, reasonably read, does not transfer the right to demand arbitration. View "Pine Top Receivables of IL, LLC v. Banco de Seguros del Estado" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, victims and victims' families and estates, filed suit against Iran and others alleging their liability for the attack on the Khobar Towers apartment complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Plaintiffs obtained a default judgment and attempted to collect. Plaintiffs had writs of attachment issued to Bank of America and Wells Fargo, seeking any asset held by the banks in which Iran had interest. The banks conceded that some accounts were potentially subject to attachment and these "uncontested accounts" were the subject of an interpleader action in the district court. The remaining "contested accounts" are the subject of this appeal. The court affirmed the order of the district court denying plaintiffs' motion for a turnover of the funds because plaintiffs could not attach the contested accounts under either section 201 of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-297, 116 Stat. 2322, 2337, or 28 U.S.C. 1610(g) without an Iranian ownership interest in the accounts and because Iran lacked an ownership interest in the accounts. View "Heiser, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellees, the Rubins, requested that the district court issue a Writ of Garnishment against the assets of Hamas and HLF after obtaining a judgment against Hamas for damages resulting from a terrorist attack in an outdoor pedestrian mall in Jerusalem. The district court executed the writ but the Rubins could not execute against HLF's assets because those assets had been restrained under 21 U.S.C. 853 to preserve their availability for criminal forfeiture proceedings. The district court subsequently denied the government's motion to dismiss the Rubins' third-party petition under section 853(n) to assert their interests in the restrained assets and vacated the preliminary order of forfeiture. The district court held that the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA), Pub. L. No. 107-297, title II, 201, 116 Stat. 2337, allowed the Rubins to execute against HLF's assets not withstanding the government's forfeiture proceedings. The court reversed, holding that section 853(n) did not provide the Rubins with a basis to prevail in the ancillary proceeding; TRIA did not provide the Rubins a basis to assert their interest in the forfeited property; TRIA did not trump the criminal forfeiture statute; and the in custodia legis doctrine did not preclude the district court's in personam jurisdiction over HLF. View "United States v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2000 an “incident” occurred on the ice of a professional hockey game in Switzerland between Miller and McKim. McKim was injured. Swiss courts filed criminal charges against Miller. McKim’s insurer and hockey club filed suit against Miller, and two civil judgments were entered against Miller. Miller left Switzerland before the judgments were finalized and informed his hockey team and its insurer (Winterthur) that he no longer had the financial means to defend the litigation. In 2005, a document was submitted to Miller in Michigan from Winterthur that acknowledged its responsibility for the costs of criminal and civil judgments and proceedings pending in Zurich and previous attorneys’ fees. In 2010, McKim’s team and insurer submitted demands for payment to Miller from the Swiss judgment. Miller, claiming reliance, submitted the demands to Winterthur, which declined to pay the judgments in full. Miller brought suit in Michigan, seeking contractual damages and enforcement of the terms of the 2005 document. The district court granted Winterthur’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Miller had established a basis for personal jurisdiction under Michigan’s long-arm statute, but the requirements of constitutional due process were not met. View "Miller v. AXA Winterthur Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Sierra filed a motion under FRCP 60 in the district court that had issued default judgments against defendant, an officer of a French corporation that bought assets from an insolvent California insurance company pursuant to a rehabilitation plan, asking that court to correct judgments to add an explanation sufficient to permit its enforcement in France. The district court granted the motion and entered two corrected judgments. Defendant appealed. The court affirmed because the operative, substantive terms of the corrected judgments were identical to the terms of the original judgments. Therefore, the amendments only clarified the original intent of the judgments, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in making those changes under Rule 60(a). The court also held that, by failing to challenge the original judgments, defendant waived his arguments as to setoff, release, and the nature and amount of his liability. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to stay entry of the amended or corrected judgments. View "Garamendi v. Hennin" on Justia Law

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Claimant Floyd Fife appealed a decision of the Industrial Commission that found he had failed to prove that his medical condition requiring back surgery was caused by an industrial accident rather than by pre-existing degenerative changes in his thoracic and lumbar spine. An evidentiary hearing was held before a hearing officer on November 5, 2009, but the hearing officer left the employment of the Industrial Commission before submitting proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Commission then reviewed the record and issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order on June 8, 2010. It found the testimony of Claimantâs surgeon unpersuasive, characterizing it as "unclear, to the point of opacity, as to the actual nature of the injury which he claims is responsible for the need for surgery." When the surgeon had been asked whether he could point to any objective pathological findings in any of the diagnostic studies he had performed on Claimant that related to recent trauma, the surgeon answered that he could not. The Commission found convincing the testimony of the physician who conducted the independent medical examination of Claimant. On appeal, Claimant contended that the Commission erred as a matter of law in rejecting the testimony of his surgeon. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that because the Commission, as the trier of fact, was not required to accept the testimony of Claimantâs treating physician, the Court affirmed its decision.