Relying on past New York precedent, a New York state trial court determined the language of certain reinsurance certificates at issue were unambiguous, declining to accept plaintiff’s extraneous evidence “that the custom and practice in the insurance trade is contrary” to such precedent.
The Court relied on the following three cases: Utica Mut. Ins. Co. v. Clearwater Ins. Co., 2014 WL 6610915 (N.D.N.Y. Nov. 20, 2014) (currently on appeal); Excess Ins. Co. Ltd. v. Factory Mut. Ins. Co., 3 N.Y.3d 577 (2004); and Bellefonte Reins. Co. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 903 F.2d 910 (2d Cir. 1990), wherein the courts “concluded that the [reinsurance] certificates as to the limit of liability are unambiguous, and therefore, extrinsic evidence should not be considered.” Notably, other courts have reached different results on this issue.
Although the certificate language here – “reinsurance accepted” – was different than the “limit” language considered by the New York Court of Appeals in Excess, the Court in Excess relied, in part, on the decision by the Second Circuit in Bellefonte – which involved reinsurance certificates with the same or similar language to the certificates at issue here. Citing to Excess in support of its decision, the Court noted:
Of course, both parties were well aware of the type of product that was being reinsured. It would be far from unreasonable to expect that at the time of procuring reinsurance, [the reinusred] could anticipate the possibility of incurring loss adjustment expenses in settling a claim… Certainly, nothing prevented [the reinsured] from insuring that risk either by expressly stating that the defense costs were excluded from the indemnification limit or otherwise negotiating an additional limit for loss adjustment expenses that would have been separate and apart from the reinsurer’s liability on the insured property. Failing this, the reinsurers were entitled to rely on the policy limit as setting their maximum risk exposure. (Excess, at 584-585).
The Court granted the moving defendants partial summary judgment on their affirmative defense pertaining to a cap on liability for both loss and expenses in the face amount of the reinsurance certificates. Utica Mut. Ins. Co. v. Abeille Gen. Ins. Co., n/k/a 21st Century Nat’l. Ins. Co., et al., Index. No. CA2013-002320 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County Aug. 15, 2016).