In what began as a dispute between OneBeacon America Insurance Company and its insured, Colgate, over OneBeacon’s asserted right to control the defense of claims against Colgate in connection with numerous personal injury suits, Colgate sued OneBeacon’s reinsurer, National Indemnity Company (“NICO), and its affiliated claims adjuster, Resolute Management. Colgate alleged that OneBeacon’s contractual relationship with NICO and Resolute created a conflict of interest because they served a dual role as both OneBeacon’s reinsurer and the claims adjuster under those policies. Colgate wanted to defend the actions against it, while NICO and Resolute wanted to settle the cases to minimize the legal expenses.
Colgate sued NICO and Resolute under several theories, including declaratory relief, breach of contract, tortious interference, breach of the implied covenant of fair dealing, and a statutory claim under Massachusetts law for unfair deceptive conduct. After the lower court only partially dismissed these claims, NICO and Resolute appealed. The appellate court dismissed all claims against NICO and Resolute. Central to the court’s ruling was the absence of a contract between Colgate and NICO or between Colgate and Resolute. Moreover, the agreement between NICO and Resolute provided that the agreement could not be assigned and that it did not confer any rights on third parties. Absent contractual privity or an assigment, Colgate could not assert any claims against NICO or Resolute despite their dual roles as OneBeacon’s reinsurer and Colgate’s claims administrator. OneBeacon America Insurance Co. v. Colgate-Palmolive, Index No. 651193/11 (N.Y. App. Div. Oct. 28, 2014).