Court Finds Communications With Reinsurers Discoverable In Coverage Dispute


A federal court in Minnesota determined that an umbrella insurer’s communications with its reinsurers are discoverable in a coverage dispute. The case is titled National Union v. Donaldson Co., and the focus is on the scope of coverage that National Union is required to provide to its insured under certain umbrella policies in connection with the insured’s liability in two underlying lawsuits. One of the issues in the case is whether a “batch clause” in the primary policy was applicable to the umbrella policies. The “batch clause” affects how many deductibles are applicable, i.e., whether it is possible to “batch claims” under the umbrella policies so that only one deductible should be applied or whether separate deductibles must be satisfied.

The insured filed a motion to compel production of, among other things, National Union’s communications with its reinsurers, arguing that the communications were relevant to its bad faith counterclaim because National Union had taken the position that only a certain amount of policy limits could be available under the primary policy and that it was not possible to “batch claims” under the umbrella policies. The insured contended that what National Union said to its reinsurers on the issue would shed light on the timing of National Union’s view of the batch clause and its application for the primary and the umbrella layers of coverage, as well as National Union’s understanding of the potential indemnity exposure under the various policies. The Magistrate Judge granted the motion without discussion, concluding only that the standard in Rule 26(b)(1) had been met. The District Court overruled National Union’s objections to the Magistrate Judge’s order, noting a split of authority on the discoverability of communications with reinsurers in bad faith cases, and concluding that the ruling was not contrary to law or clearly erroneous.

National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. Donaldson Co., Inc., No. 10-4948 (USDC D. Minn. June 24, 2014).


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