Second Circuit Affirms Application Of Illinois Notice/Prejudice Rule In Reinsurance Row

Carlton Fields

Granite State Insurance Company (“Granite State”) brought an action against Clearwater Insurance Company (“Clearwater”) regarding a dispute over reinsurance claims Granite State made, and which Clearwater denied based on late notice. The claims pertained to underlying settlements of a large number of asbestos claims. The reinsurance certificates required prompt notice “of any event or development” which Granite State “reasonably believe[d] might result in a claim.” The district court found that Granite State’s notice to Clearwater under the reinsurance certificates at issue was untimely, and the Second Circuit affirmed.

In particular, the Second Circuit resolved a question raised on appeal pertaining to which state law applied. The parties agreed that, if there was a conflict of laws, Illinois law would apply under a “significant contacts” analysis, versus the law of the state where the action was pending – New York. But Granite State argued that Illinois law did not clearly conflict with New York law, and that therefore the New York federal court should have applied New York’s late notice rule, which requires an affirmative showing of prejudice on the part of the party asserting late notice as a bar to recovery.

The Second Circuit affirmed, finding that Illinois law was sufficiently clear on the issue, and does not require a showing of prejudice. Therefore, the laws were truly in conflict, and conflict of law analysis required application of Illinois law. Clearwater was thus not required to demonstrate that it was prejudiced by Granite State’s late notice in order to refuse to pay Granite State’s claims for reinsurance coverage.  Granite State Ins. Co v. Clearwater Ins. Co., No. 14-1494 (2d Cir. April 2, 2015).

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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