In an April 8, 2008 post, we reported on a UK Court of Appeals decision, Wasa International Insurance Co. v. Lexington Ins. Co.,  EWCA Civ. 150 (Feb. 29, 2008), reversing a lower court’s decision denying reinsurance coverage despite a follow the fortunes provision, based on a finding that the damages occurred outside the coverage period of the reinsurance, and despite the conclusion of a US court on the underlying claim finding liability for damage occurring outside the coverage period of the underlying policy. The Court of Appeals found that the coverage provision of the reinsurance should be interpreted in the same manner as the coverage provision in the underlying insurance. The Court of Appeals agreed that the insurance and reinsurance contracts were not entirely “back-to-back” in terms of the coverage periods, but concluded that although there were some differences in the contracts, the parties intended that they should have the same effect, so the reinsured’s settlement of the insurance claim did fall within the terms of the reinsurance contract.
The UK House of Lords allowed consolidated appeals from the Court of Appeals. These appeals raised the question of the extent to which the coverage under a proportional facultative reinsurance contract is, or should be construed as being, coextensive with the coverage under the insurance contract. The House of Lords, as articulated by Lord Collins, found that the reinsurer takes a proportional share of the premium and bears the risk of the same share of any losses. Normally reinsurance of that kind is back-to-back with the insurance, and the reinsurer and the original insurer enter into a bargain that if the insurer is liable under the insurance contract, the reinsurer will be liable to pay the proportion which it has agreed to reinsure. Any loss within the coverage of the insurance will be within the coverage of the reinsurance. In the view of Lord Phillips, the result of the appeals was dictated by the fact that the subject reinsurance contract was governed by English law and by the principle under English law that a reinsurance contract in relation to property is a contract under which the reinsurers insure the property that is the subject of the primary insurance; “it is not simply a contract under which the reinsurers agree to indemnify the insurers in relation to any liability that they may incur under the primary insurance.” Lexington Insurance Co. v. AGF Insurance Ltd.,  UKHL 40 (July 30, 2009).