The Second Circuit has partially vacated summary judgment rulings in a case involving the reinsurance of asbestos-related risks. The case involves Utica Mutual Insurance Company and it reinsurer Clearwater Insurance Company, regarding Clearwater's reinsurance obligations arising from claims of Utica's insured, Goulds Pumps, Inc. Utica had issued various primary and umbrella liability insurance policies to Goulds from the 1950s to the 1990s. In the 1990s, Goulds faced many thousands of asbestos-related person injury claims, for which it turned to Utica for coverage. Clearwater had reinsured the 1978 and 1979 umbrella policies under two reinsurance certificates (the "Clearwater Certificates") and the 1979-1981 umbrella policies under three reinsurance contacts as part of a pool of reinsurers managed by Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby, Inc. (the "TPF&C Memoranda"). When Utica sought coverage from Clearwater, Clearwater objected on three grounds: (1) Utica had no liability for the asbestos-related claims under the umbrella policies reinsured by Clearwater; (2) Clearwater's liability under the Clearwater Certificates was capped at $5 million and $2 million for 1978 and 1979, inclusive of expenses; and (3) Clearwater was not obligated to pay amounts Utica had voluntarily paid Goulds through settlements.
The Second Circuit found that Clearwater's first objection turned on language in the Utica umbrella policies stating that Utica would cover expenses "not covered by" the primary policies. Clearwater argued this meant that the umbrella policies did not cover asbestos-related claims because such claims were covered by the primary polices, but Utica said it meant the umbrella policies had to cover amounts that Utica did not pay under the primary policies because it interpreted those policies to have aggregate limits of liability that were exceeded. The trial court, which had granted Clearwater summary judgment on other grounds, had not decided what "not covered" meant in this context, and the Second Circuit remanded the matter so the trial court could rule on this issue.
The Second Circuit rejected Clearwater's second objection, because the Clearwater Certificates contained "follow the form" clauses, the umbrella policies specifically stated that Utica would "reimburse the insured for all reasonable expenses . . . in addition to the applicable limit of liability of this policy," and the Clearwater Certificates contained nothing inconsistent with an obligation to cover expenses in addition to the limits of liability contained in those Certificates.
Finally, the Second Circuit agreed with Clearwater's third objection, finding that Clearwater was not obligated to reimburse Utica for its voluntary settlements with Goulds because the Clearwater Certificates did not contain an express follow-the-settlements clause and no such obligation was implied under New York Law. Further, it found that the TPF&C Memoranda only required Clearwater to reimburse Utica for settlements that were authorized by TPF&C, which authorization had never been requested or given. Utica objected that this condition was excused because it was impossible, as TPF&C had stopped managing the reinsurance pools decades ago, but the court found that, regardless of impossibility, such prior approval was still a condition precedent to Clearwater's obligation to reimburse Utica for the settlements.
Utica Mutual Insurance Company v. Clearwater Insurance Company, Nos. 16-2535 (L), 16-2824 (XAP) (2d Cir. Sep. 25, 2018).
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