A New Jersey federal district court recently weighed whether it had personal jurisdiction over a foreign corporation in a reinsurance and retrocession dispute. The case involved insurance coverage for Companhia Siderurgica Nacional, S.A. (“CSN”), one of the largest conglomerates in Brazil with interests in steel, iron ore, mining, and various other operations. The direct coverage was provided by Brazilian insurance corporations, which reinsured through IRB Brasil Resseguros S.A. (“IRB”); in turn, IRB sought retrocessional coverage from National Indemnity Company (“NICO”) through a reinsurance broker in New Jersey, Catalyst Re Consulting, LLC (“Catalyst Re”).
The dispute involved nearly $200 million in retrocessional coverage provided to IRB by NICO. When IRB indicated that it may not be able to make a $9 million premium payment on time, NICO issued an extension on the premium payment based on a personal guarantee by CSN. Then, CSN filed a claim for coverage under the direct policies and initiated a lawsuit against IRB for failure to acknowledge that it was the reinsurer of that direct coverage. CSN and IRB settled this dispute, with IRB agreeing to “help CSN retrieve the $9 million premium that CSN paid to NICO” to secure the retrocessional agreement.
As a result, NICO filed suit in New Jersey seeking a declaration that the retrocessional agreement was binding and enforceable, and that CSN had no right to the premium. NICO further alleged tortious interference with a contractual relationship, unjust enrichment, injurious falsehood, and civil conspiracy against CSN. CSN, a Brazilian corporation, moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court explained that “specific jurisdiction analysis is claim-specific,” and it must therefore “consider whether the defendant’s contacts with the forum arise under or relate to each claim alleged.” The court found that it had jurisdiction over CSN on the declaratory actions because it had acted through a New Jersey reinsurance broker to secure coverage and guarantee payment to NICO. However, the court found that it did not have jurisdiction over CSN related to the actions for damages because those involved actions between two Brazilian corporations and lawsuits and settlement agreements effectuated in Brazil. Thus, NICO will only be able to pursue the declaratory action against CSN in the United States, and will likely have to file any suit for damages against CSN in Brazil. National Indem. Co. v. Companhia Siderurgica Nacional, S.A., Case No. 15-cv-00752-JLL (D.N.J. Feb. 8, 2016).