Suppose the following. You are the General Counsel of a company that’s been sued in a few hundred asbestos cases. You’ve timely notified all the primary insurers of the underlying claims, and some have paid defense expenses. But, assume also that a primary insurer known as Home has filed for the insurance equivalent of bankruptcy (see opinion here re Home) and is not paying any claims. Assume also that an insurer known as London has denied that it should pay claims because the insured cannot provide originals of the small pieces of paper known as “slips” that denoted issuance of its insurance, and assume further that London has created a purported successor entity you are forced to deal with and also has claimed that it is on the brink of insolvency (see Wikipedia here or see all the things that a lawyer for insureds has to say on his insurance coverage blog here) Assume next that your company obtains virtually nothing from Home even though it issues lots of insurance, and assume your company settles with London for about 90 cents on the dollar of the policy limits of London, with you figuring that litigating to death will cost more than just eating the difference, and who knows, London may in fact prove to be insolvent some day. Under these facts, can you recover from excess insurance policies above the policies issued by Home or London ?
For that general counsel, the sad reality is that some courts might well preclude recoveries from excess policies due to the circumstances of Home and London. Really? Yes ! For the specifics, see the informative article by Gilbert Oshinsky coverage lawyers Richard Shore, Stephen A. Weisbrod, and Andrea K. Hopkins. And, yes, the article also explains why they disagree with the rulings. After reading the article, you’ll better appreciate the difficulties of managing legacy liability issues.