United States Fire Ins. Co. v. Equitas Ins. Ltd., No. 18-cv-1205-LM, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183909 (D. N.H. Oct. 24, 2019).
From 1972 to 1985, the cedents issued umbrella liability policies to a Pennsylvania corporation that manufactured and sold respiration protection and asbestos-containing personal protective products. In that same period, the cedents entered into reinsurance contracts reinsuring the umbrella liability policies.
n the 1990s, the policyholder sought coverage under the umbrella liability policies for hundreds of personal injury claims related to exposure to asbestos, coal, and silica dust. Ultimately, claimants secured payment from the cedents in the form of a 2016 jury verdict, a set of payments in 2017, and a confidential settlement in 2018. The cedents sought recoveries from the reinsurers because of the claim and settlement payments. Several reinsurers denied coverage. The cedents sued, alleging breach of the reinsurance contracts and seeking a declaratory judgment of the parties’ rights and obligations under the contracts.
On the same day that the cedents sued the reinsurers in New Hampshire federal court, certain underwriters and reinsurers sued the cedents in New Jersey state court, seeking to recoup payments made under the reinsurance contracts and a declaratory judgment of the parties’ rights and obligations. The New Jersey case was filed less than an hour before the New Hampshire case. The reinsurers moved to dismiss or stay the New Hampshire case in deference to the New Jersey case. The New Hampshire federal court granted the reinsurerdefendants’ motion to dismiss the case. The court cited the prior pending-action doctrine in deciding that the New Jersey action – while brought in a different posture – dealt with the same parties and issues presented in New Hampshire. Because the controlling issues in the New Hampshire case will be determined in the New Jersey action, dismissal based on the prior-pending action doctrine was appropriate.