A Pennsylvania appellate court has affirmed the liquidator’s determination that a group excess insurance policy issued by Reliance is a reinsurance policy and thereby entitled to a low level of priority of payment from the now insolvent Reliance estate. At issue was a claim by the Alabama Insurance Guaranty Association for reimbursement from the estate for a claim it had paid to a general contractors fund. The Association argued that the Reliance policy was a direct insurance policy, thereby entitled to a high priority for re-payment, and that the liquidator was obligated to follow an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that the claim arose under a policy of direct insurance.
The Pennsylvania court rejected all of the Association’s claims that the liquidator was bound by the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, including the application of the Full Faith and Credit doctrine and principles of collateral estoppel. The court also rejected any choice of law analysis favoring Alabama over Pennsylvania and concluded that the policy at issue was one of reinsurance under Pennsylvania’s governing law. The material characteristics the court looked to in order to determine that the policy was one of reinsurance included the language of the policy itself referring to a “reinsurance premium” and the obligations of Reliance to “reinsure” the Alabama Reinsurance Trust. The opinion generated a strong and lengthy dissent that criticized the majority for rejecting the Alabama Supreme Court’s holding and for otherwise finding that the policy was a contract of reinsurance and not a group insurance policy that covered catastrophic workers’ compensation claims of the self-insurers that were members of the group. Alabama Insurance Guaranty Association v. Reliance Insurance Co. in Liquidation, No. 6 REL 2012 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Sept. 12, 2014).