Bankruptcy Trustee’s Action For Crop Reinsurance Proceeds Is Time-Barred


A federal district court has held that a bankruptcy trustee’s action to compel payment of crop insurance proceeds is time-barred by virtue of the Federal Crop Insurance Act (FCIA) and the insurance policies’ arbitration provisions. The trustee brought the action against the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), as reinsurer, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) seeking payment of policy proceeds for the benefit of the debtor’s estate. The court held that the trustee was precluded from asserting claims against the FCIC and RMA because the trustee failed to commence arbitration or take any legal action to contest the now-insolvent insurer’s claims decision within the one-year limitations period set out in the FCIA and in the policies themselves. The court rejected the trustee’s argument that the automatic stay triggered by the bankruptcy case affected the limitations period, reasoning that the stay applied only to actions against the debtor, not to prevent a debtor from offensively asserting a claim. The court also rejected the trustee’s arguments that the arbitration provisions of the policies were “core” bankruptcy issues that could only be addressed by the bankruptcy court; that the limitations period was excused or waived; and that the doctrine of estoppel prevented enforcement of that limitations period. The court granted the FCIC’s and RMA’s motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment and denied the trustee’s motion for partial summary judgment. Van Curen v. Federal Crop Insurance Corp., Case No. 13-04601 (USDC N.D. Cal. Apr. 21, 2014).



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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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