District Court Declines To Consolidate Disputes Arising Out Of Two Reinsurance Contracts

by Carlton Fields

Plaintiff Georgia Casualty & Surety Company entered into two reinsurance contracts with Defendant Excalibur Reinsurance Corporation, formerly known as PMA Capital Insurance Company. Both reinsurance contracts contained arbitration clauses. The First Excess Reinsurance Contract contained a choice of law provision but no forum selection clause, and the Second Excess Reinsurance Contract contained a forum selection clause but no choice of law provision. In 2006, Douglas Asphalt Company sued Applied Technical Services, Inc., a Georgia Casualty insured. Applied was found liable. While that judgment was on appeal, a high-low agreement was entered, which guaranteed that Georgia Casualty would pay Applied no less than $3 million and no more than $12 million. Thereafter, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment against Applied. Georgia Casualty claimed that it was owed $1,418,708 under the two reinsurance contracts. In response, Excalibur argued that Georgia Casualty promised to seek malpractice damages against defense counsel for Applied and that this lawsuit would be a prerequisite to determining Excalibur’s liability. Additionally, Excalibur claimed that it did not consent to the high-low agreement. Georgia Casualty demanded arbitration of Excalibur’s alleged breach of the reinsurance contracts. Excalibur demanded arbitration on a counterclaim for unpaid premiums. Excalibur refused to consolidate the arbitration of all claims under both reinsurance contracts and requested that the arbitrators stay the arbitration pending the resolution of the malpractice claims. Georgia Casualty claimed this was a delay tactic and sued Excalibur.

The court found that if the Federal Arbitration Act or a state arbitration act lacking a statutory consolidation provision applied, then a court may consolidate arbitration only if the contracts expressly permit. Alternatively, if a state arbitration act that allows courts to impose consolidation regardless of the contracts’ terms governs the contracts, then a court may order consolidation where the statutory requirements are satisfied. Because the Second Excess Reinsurance Contract lacked a choice of law provision, it was governed by the FAA. Thus, the court could not order consolidation. Because the court could not order consolidation, it also could not designate a forum for that consolidated arbitration. With respect to a potential stay, the court believed it had to tread carefully to not violate the principle that, in determining whether a dispute is arbitrable, a court should not rule on the merits of the underlying claims. The court could not order the arbitrators not to stay the arbitration pending any potential malpractice recovery. The court also could not delve into the contract to determine if the contract required Excalibur to post security (in response to Georgia Casualty’s claim that Excalibur was delaying the proceedings). Georgia Casualty & Surety Co. v. Excalibur Reinsurance Corp., Case No. 1:13-CV-00456-JEC (USDC N.D. Ga. Mar. 13, 2014).


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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