• Posts by Syed S. Ahmad
    Posts by Syed S. Ahmad
    Partner

    Syed represents clients in connection with insurance coverage, reinsurance matters and other business litigation. Syed serves as the head of the firm’s insurance coverage practice. He has been admitted to the US Court of Appeals ...

Time 2 Minute Read

A software company—Zywave, Inc. (“Zywave”)—recently filed a lawsuit in California federal court that may provide rare insight into how courts will resolve representations and warranties (“R&W”) insurance coverage disputes. Zywave purchased a buyer-side R&W policy in connection with its acquisition of an insurance product-distribution software company. Zywave alleged that, post-close, it learned that the seller had knowledge of “serious material performance issues with certain customers that it failed to disclose,” amounting to breaches of various sections of the acquisition agreement. The software company further alleged that if the seller had disclosed the performance issues, the software company would have either walked away from the transaction or paid a lower purchase price.

Time 3 Minute Read

Courts scrutinize a complaint’s factual allegations to decide whether the allegations trigger a duty to defend. [1] If the facts unambiguously exclude coverage, there is no duty to defend. [2] But what if the factual allegations fall within a policy exclusion, but the allegations are untrue or questionable? What if the true facts would mean the exclusion doesn’t apply? In that case, many courts have found that the insurer should base its decision on the policyholder’s version of the “true facts.” [3] An insurer can’t rely on the complaint’s allegations to deny coverage when the facts that the insurer knows or can ascertain show that the claim is covered. [4]

Time 4 Minute Read

When is a catch-all provision too broad? When “a plain-text reading of that provision would swallow a substantial portion of the coverage that the policy otherwise explicitly purports to provide,” according to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Citizens Insurance Co. of America v. Wynndalco Enterprises LLC, Case No. 22-2313.

Time 4 Minute Read

Insurers generally have a right to conduct a full, fair, and thorough investigation of a claim. Depending on policy language, one investigative tool available to insurers is the examination under oath, or an “EUO.” In an EUO, a representative of the policyholder is sworn-in, and an employee of or attorney for the insurer asks questions related to the claim. EUOs may be a condition precedent to coverage, meaning failure to appear and comply with a reasonable EUO request may void coverage for the claim. See, e.g., Quality Health Supply Corp. v. Nationwide Ins., No. 2021-06955, 2023 WL 3486573 (N.Y. App. Div. May 17, 2023); Raymond v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 614 F. Supp. 3d 1303 (N.D. Ga. 2022).

Time 2 Minute Read

The explosive growth of representations and warranties (R&W) insurance over the last decade is no secret.  But, for many, R&W insurance remains an enigma, particularly as respects filing a claim under such policies.  Indeed, even those involved in buying R&W insurance may not have experience on the claims end and, as a result, possess little knowledge on how to navigate the assortment of issues that may arise.  Of course, policyholders pursuing a claim under an R&W policy should be aware of the minefield of issues that await in establishing the two primary thresholds to recovery: breach ...

Time 8 Minute Read

PFAS Regulation

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (“PFAS”) are a class of substances that have increasingly become the target of federal and state regulation in everything from drinking water, groundwater, site contamination, waste, air emissions, firefighting foam, personal care products, food and food packaging, and now consumer and commercial products. PFAS are widely-used chemicals that have the unique ability to repel both oil and water, which led to their application in many products including items such as stain and water-repellent fabric, chemical-and oil-resistant coatings, food packaging materials, plastics, firefighting foam, solar panels and many others. The carbon-fluorine bond is the strongest in nature, making these compounds highly persistent in the environment.

Time 4 Minute Read

As businesses continue to increase their reliance on technology, they are bound to face the inevitable risks associated with online transactions and other cyber exposures. This, in turn, emphasizes the importance of having the proper insurance policies and compliance methods in place to prevent or, at least, mitigate losses that ensue from these risks. In this context, many insurance policies require that there be a “direct” loss for there to be coverage, which has spawned numerous lawsuits about what the word “direct” means. The latest court to weigh in has sided with the insured and interpreted that term broadly to essentially mean proximate causation.

Time 2 Minute Read

While companies develop their return-to-office policies or decide to keep employees working remotely, they should be mindful of potential liability under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (“WARN Act”) in the event of future layoffs. A recent opinion from the Eastern District of Virginia provides a timely alert for companies to review their employment practices liability (“EPL”) coverage and understand their risk of future exposures. The court held that remote employees alleging violations under the WARN Act—a statute requiring sixty days’ notice before a “mass layoff” at a “single site of employment”—could receive class certification, despite the fact that class members physically worked at different locations. EPL policies can effectively mitigate the related risk by covering the cost of litigation, as well as the company’s resulting liability.

Time 2 Minute Read

An amended version of the Comprehensive Insurance Disclosure Act recently went into effect in New York State. This law applies to all civil lawsuits filed in New York State Court on or after December 31, 2021. The first disclosures required by the law will be due soon and it is important for defendants to be aware of their new obligations.

Time 1 Minute Read

Most insurance policies include a period of limitation provision that limits how long policyholders have to sue their insurers for coverage under the policy.  But those periods of limitation can be traps for the unwary.  As with many insurance provisions, different states construe the same language differently.  States not only start the clock at different times, some states pause the clock while the insurer considers whether it will provide coverage.

Time 3 Minute Read

A New Mexico court recently granted judgment on the pleadings against an insurer and found coverage, reminding the insurer that different words in a policy, indeed, have different meanings.

In Power of Grace, LLC v. Weatherby, Power of Grace, a policyholder, sued its insurer, Hudson Insurance Companies, and its insurance agent, Weatherby-Eisenrich Inc.  Power of Grace alleged that Weatherby and Hudson were liable for damages it might incur in an underlying wrongful death lawsuit arising from a tractor-trailer accident.

Time 3 Minute Read

We have written over the past year about a string of pro-policyholder decisions from Delaware courts. One policyholder, however, recently had its claims dismissed based on application of Delaware law, based on one of 2020’s important D&O cases that limited coverage for appraisal actions initiated by stockholders pursuant to Title 8, Section 262 of the Delaware Code. In Stillwater Mining Co. v. National Union, the Delaware Superior Court explained that Stillwater had seized upon the Court’s 2019 opinion in Solera Holdings v. XL Specialty, which had held that a Section 262 appraisal action constituted a “securities claim” because it alleged a “violation” of state statutory or common law regulating securities. The policyholder alleged in its complaint that Delaware law governed the D&O policy, but when the Delaware Supreme Court reversed Solera, Stillwater “pivoted” to the view that Montana law, rather than Delaware law, governed the policy.

Time 6 Minute Read

Priority of coverage disputes can arise where different insurers for different insureds cover the same claim. Generally, competing insurers will compare the “Other Insurance” clauses of their policies to decide who should cover the claim first. But where one of the insureds owes contractual indemnity to the other, the indemnity obligation may govern. Thus, the insurer for the insured who owes indemnity may cover the claim first, even if it would have been excess per the “Other Insurance” clauses. Such was the case in Cent. Sur. Co. v. Metro. Transit Auth., et al., No. 20-1474-CV, 2021 WL 4538633, at *1 (2d Cir. Oct. 5, 2021).

Time 4 Minute Read

Hunton insurance attorneys Syed Ahmad, Geoffrey Fehling, and Kevin Small commented on a retailer’s insurance dispute related to COVID-19 in the latest edition of the Recall Roundup, posted on the Hunton Retail Law Resource Blog.

In a setback for retail-policyholders hoping to enforce coverage for losses due to COVID-19 in federal court, a Tennessee district court recently knocked out a complaint filed by a sprawling Nashville establishment seeking coverage under a food contamination provision in its property policy. The court’s opinion dismissing Nashville Underground LLC v. AMCO Insurance Co. is noteworthy due to the great lengths taken to define a policy provision—intended to provide broad coverage for disruption of business due to the suspicion of food contamination—in a way that limits coverage contrary to the reasonable expectations of businesses purchasing policies specifically tailored to protect against actual or suspected contamination.

Time 3 Minute Read

The First Circuit recently held that a “Special Hazard and Fluids Limitation Endorsement” was ambiguous and therefore there was excess coverage for a fuel spill that occurred after a tanker-truck overturned.

In Performance Trans. Inc. v. General Star Indem. Co., the First Circuit reversed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of General Star Indemnity Company. The District Court held that the excess policy General Star issued to Performance Trans. Inc. precluded coverage for a spill that resulted in the leaking of thousands of gallons of fuel. The District Court relied on the existence of a total pollution exclusion to bar coverage and held that the policy’s Special Hazards and Fluids Limitation Endorsement could not create an ambiguity that would afford coverage.

Time 5 Minute Read

A D.C. federal judge recently held that an insurer could be responsible to a TV station for more than $25 million in an underlying malpractice suit where the insurer failed to send timely notice preserving its rights under the policy in violation of a Virginia statute.

Time 3 Minute Read

A federal judge has denied an insurance company’s motion to dismiss the claims of another insurer seeking reimbursement and contribution for the $15 million it paid to settle underlying claims arising from a product recall.

Time 2 Minute Read

A group of Las Vegas-based restaurants recently filed a class action lawsuit to recover business interruption damages against their insurer. The Egg Works chain alleged that U.S. Specialty wrongly denied their claims for financial losses stemming from the Nevada governor’s closure of non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s orders limited the restaurants to takeout and delivery service only.

Time 3 Minute Read

Pennsylvania’s highest court recently rejected Erie Insurance Exchange’s argument that it had no duty to defend a claim arising out of a shooting because it did not involve an accident, and therefore, there was no “occurrence” under the policy. The court held that the duty to defend was triggered because the underlying allegations were not “patently outside the policy coverage.” This decision can have far reaching effects on other kinds of claims involving intentional conduct.

Time 2 Minute Read

Evolving government orders will affect the way many retail businesses operate and the potential insurance available for losses and expenses. For instance, on April 28, 2020, the State Health Officer of Alabama issued an Order allowing some businesses to reopen, but under strict sanitation and social distancing guidelines. Retail stores, for example, will be allowed to reopen but must maintain a maximum occupancy rate of 50%. While a partial opening may restore some level of activity, because these businesses must operate at a reduced capacity, their operations will not return to normal. Beyond that, while some states are loosening social distancing requirements, others have extended them. Indeed, on the same day that Alabama announced its partial reopening, the Governor of Massachusetts extended the closures of non-essential businesses. Regardless of location, many businesses will likely sustain substantial losses because of these orders, and will incur expenses to comply with evolving requirements and operational guidelines.

Time 4 Minute Read

A New York appellate court recently held that renewable bio-diesel fuel manufacturer BioEnergy Development Group LLC may pursue tens of millions of dollars in damages from its insurers under two all-risk insurance policies, including amounts in excess of the policy limits, where the insurers refused to pay claims in a timely manner.

Time 3 Minute Read

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently held that Zurich American Insurance Company was obligated to defend Electricity Maine, LLC in a class action lawsuit brought by its customers.  The case stems from alleged misconduct by Electricity Maine that resulted in customers receiving higher bills than were previously represented.  Plaintiffs Jennifer Chon and Katherine Veilleux sought to represent a class of approximately 200,000 customers seeking damages totaling approximately $35 million.  Specifically, the complaint asserted claims for negligence, negligent misrepresentation, violations under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18. U.S.C. §§ 1962, 1964, and the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Time 2 Minute Read

Insurance companies can become insolvent. This is an ongoing issue in Puerto Rico following hurricanes Irma and Maria. In addition to Real Legacy Assurance Company’s insolvency, Puerto Rico’s Insurance Commissioner reportedly fined various insurers for delays in handling claims. Even if your insurance company is insolvent, it may have purchased reinsurance. While the general rule is that a policyholder cannot make a claim directly against the reinsurer, there are exceptions to the rule. One such exception is when the reinsurance contract contains a “cut-through” ...

Time 3 Minute Read

In Centurion Med. Liab. Protective Risk Retention Grp., Inc. v. Gonzalez, No. CV 17-01581 RGK (JCx), 2017 BL 392431 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 1, 2017), Centurion Medical Liability Protective Risk Retention Group sought a declaration that it owed no duty to defend a lawsuit alleging that its insureds—a group of medical practitioners—committed professional negligence during the delivery of a newborn child.  Centurion argued that it had no defense obligation because its insureds did not notify Centurion of the lawsuit within 20 days after it was filed, as required under the policy.

Time 2 Minute Read

Earlier this week, Canada’s transport minister announced that a drone had collided with a commercial aircraft, the first confirmed collision of its kind in North America. Thankfully, the aircraft sustained only minor damage and was able to land safely. But this recent incident, which many commentators believed was inevitable given the proliferation of consumer and commercial drones, highlights the potential risks associated with drone operations.

Time 1 Minute Read

The frequency and magnitude of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) (15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1, et seq.) investigations and claims continue to grow. Last month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Halliburton Co. had agreed to pay $29.2 million in fines and penalties to settle allegations that its operations in Angola and Iraq violated the FCPA's books and records and internal accounting controls provisions. In its press release, Halliburton vowed that it had "continuously enhanced its global ethics and compliance program" since first receiving an anonymous tip in December 2010, but the recent settlement serves as a reminder that even the most robust compliance program cannot guarantee that FCPA violations will not occur.

Time 2 Minute Read

Syed Ahmad, a partner in the Hunton & Williams LLP insurance recovery practice, was quoted in an article by Law360 concerning the Fourth Circuit’s April 11, 2016 decision in Travelers Indemnity Company v. Portal Healthcare Solutions, No. 14-1944. In the decision, a panel of the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of a Virginia district court, which held in August 2014 that Travelers must defend Portal Healthcare Solutions LLC against a proposed class action alleging that the policyholder’s failure to secure its server made medical records accessible by unauthorized users ...

Time 1 Minute Read

As discussed in a February 1, 2016 posting, the court in Foster Poultry Farms v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, No. 14-cv-953, 2015 WL 5920289 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 9, 2015) held that losses associated with alleged noncompliance with federal sanitation regulations were covered by the “accidental contamination” and “government recall” provisions of a food contamination insurance policy. After a four-day bench trial, the court issued a decision awarding the insured, Foster Poultry Farms, $2.7 million for lost profits related to destroyed chicken, the loss of ...

Time 1 Minute Read

Insureds Find Place to Roost in Foster Poultry Contamination Case, Westlaw Journal Insurance Coverage
January 15, 2016

Article discussing the insurance implications of food contamination events, including product recalls, government investigations and litigation. Large-scale food safety issues have been hard to miss in the news lately. Chipotle’s multi-state E. Coli outbreak and listeria monocytogenes found in samples of Blue Bell Creamery ice cream products are some of the recent examples. After a recall, retailers and other companies involved must focus resources on ...

Time 1 Minute Read

Lessons from 'Deflategate': Drafting the right arbitrator picksInsideCounsel
October 27, 2015

Article discussing the insurance implications from the NFL’s so-called “Deflategate” scandal, involving the alleged deflation of footballs used in the 2014 AFC Championship Game.  The scandal resulted in a four-game suspension of four-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady.  When Brady—through the NFL Players Association—appealed the four-game suspension as part of the NFL’s arbitration process, Commissioner Roger Goodell unilaterally appointed himself as ...

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