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Insurance

Susman Godfrey has a long history of litigating and winning significant insurance matters on both sides of the “v.” For plaintiffs, this includes representing insureds, policy owners, and businesses in national class actions, life insurance disputes and business interruption matters against some of the nation’s largest insurers. For the insurance industry, this includes defending companies such as ACE Limited and ACE Bermuda (now Chubb), Equitas, and the members of the London Insurance Market against millions of dollars of potential exposure when litigation arises.

  • 37 Bensen Parkway v. John Hancock Life Insurance Company. Secured a $91.25 million settlement all-cash, non-reversionary settlement (before fees and expenses) for insurance policy owners against John Hancock Life Insurance Company. The Honorable Paul Gardephe described the settlement as a “quite extraordinary . . . result achieved on behalf of the class.”
  • Fleisher v. Phoenix Life Insurance. Served as lead counsel to plaintiffs in a case that challenged Phoenix Life Insurance Company’s and PHL Variable Insurance Company’s decision to raise the cost of insurance (“COI”) nationwide on life insurance policy owners. After winning class certification and defeating two motions for class decertification and a motion for summary judgment, the case settled the day of the final pretrial conference—less than two months before trial with terms that included: a $48.5 million cash fund ($34 million after fees and expenses), a COI freeze through 2020, and a covenant by Phoenix not to challenge the policies, worth $9 billion in face value, when the policies mature on the grounds of lack of insurable interest or misrepresentations in the application. At the final approval hearing, the Court concluded: “I want to say publicly that I think this is an excellent settlement. I think this is a superb—this may be the best settlement pound for pound for the class that I’ve ever seen.”
  • Brach Family Foundation et al. v. AXA Equitable Life Insurance. Serving as lead counsel in a case challenging AXA’s decision to raise cost of insurance rates on life insurance policies nationwide, and alleging that AXA made misrepresentations to policyholders in its insurance illustrations leading up to the cost of insurance increase. The Court certified two nationwide classes, one for policy-based claims and one for misrepresentation-based claims.
  • Hanks et al. v. The Lincoln Life & Annuity Company of New York, et al. Serving as lead counsel in a case challenging Voya Life Insurance Company’s decision to raise cost of insurance rates on life insurance policies nationwide. The Court certified a nationwide breach of contract class.
  • In re Lincoln National COI Litigation. Serving as co-interim-lead counsel in two cases challenging Lincoln National’s decision to raise cost of insurance rates nationwide.
  • Brighton Trustees et al. v. Genworth Life and Annuity Insurance Company. Serving as interim lead class counsel in a case challenging Genworth’s decision to raise cost of insurance rates nationwide.
  • AvMed Inc. et al. v. BrownGreer, US Bancorp, and John Does. Represented a group of more than forty health plans (who between them comprise more than 70% of the US market for private health insurance) asserting healthcare reimbursement liens against claimants to the $4.85 billion Vioxx compensation fund. Susman Godfrey reached a groundbreaking settlement with the Vioxx Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, guaranteeing them certain payouts on their liens covering participating plaintiffs. American Lawyer magazine featured this settlement in the “Big Suits” column at the time of this decision.

  • The Lincoln Life and Annuity Company of New York v. Berck; and Berck v. The Lincoln Life and Annuity Company of New York. Won a reversal in a $20 million life settlement rescission lawsuit against Lincoln Life & Annuity Company of New York as trial and appellate counsel for a group of investors. Lincoln’s lawsuit was based on allegations that the insurance policies lacked an insurable interest because they were procured by third-parties for investment purposes and because there was net worth and other misrepresentations in the applications. The appellate court ordered that the trial court enter judgment in favor of the trust affirmed the trial court victory that Lincoln’s fraud claim was time barred because the policies were incontestable. The $20 million policy matured before the trial court entered judgment in favor of the policy owner. We then sued the insurance carrier to effectuate payment of the $20 million policy. The case was the feature cover story in the publication, California Lawyer, at the time of this decision.
  • The Lincoln Life and Annuity Company of New York v. Janis and Berck. Represented Jonathan Berck, as Trustee of the Rosamond Janis Insurance Trust, in a $5 million rescission claim brought by the Lincoln Life and Annuity Company of New York for alleged violations of New York’s insurable interest laws and other “STOLI” (stranger originated life insurance) related claims. In this matter summary judgment was granted in favor of our client.
  • In re James V. Cotter, Living Trust, Ellen Marie Cotter, Margaret Cotter, Petitioners, v. James J. Cotter, Jr., Respondent. Achieved a successful verdict invalidating a will on grounds of both undue influence and incapacity in this trust and estates case in Los Angeles Superior Court.

  • Universal Cable Productions v. Atlantic Specialty Insurance. Represented Universal Cable Productions (UCP)—a subsidiary of NBC Universal—in its dispute with insurance carrier, Atlantic, which claims it was not required to provide coverage when Hamas bombing forced UCP to relocate filming of the TV miniseries “Dig” out of Jerusalem. After a successful appeal to the Ninth Circuit by Susman Godfrey on the scope of the exclusions, UCP then received a full win in the district court which found in its favor on all remaining liability issues. The case—which was set for trial on the amount of damages Atlantic owed to UCP for the relocation, whether Atlantic’s denial of coverage was done in bad faith and the amount of punitive damages owed to UCP—was settled favorably on the eve of trial.
  • Alley Theater v. Hanover Insurance. Secured a partial summary judgment win for Houston’s historic Alley Theatre in an insurance coverage lawsuit the firm handled pro bono. The suit claimed the theatre was not properly reimbursed by Hanover Insurance Company for claims related to business interruption losses sustained during Hurricane Harvey. The firm later scored its second victory for the theater when they settled the final piece of the litigation–terms of this settlement are confidential.
  • Insurance Litigation for Walmart. Lead counsel for Walmart on insurance coverage claims against certain of its insurers, regarding the settlement of claims arising out of an accident on the NJ Turnpike that injured comedian Tracy Morgan and others.
  • LyondellBasell v. Allianz Insurance. Secured a confidential recovery (ultimately disclosed in an SEC filing as more than $100 million) for LyondellBassell Industries in a London arbitration over business interruption losses arising from Hurricane Ike. Lyondell sought coverage for losses caused by a hurricane, but faced a $200 million deductible self-insured retention, which the insurers claimed exceeded any losses. We handled all coverage, accounting, and engineering issues (which included significant damage to refinery equipment and delays to turnaround construction projects). The case settled on the eve of the final evidentiary hearing after we won key disputes regarding certain insurance coverage and claim quantification issues.
  • Confidential Private Transportation Company Litigation. Hired to represent a private transportation company against its insurer for bad-faith failure to settle. The firm was engaged after a South Texas jury returned a $25+ million verdict on personal injury claims against our client, far in excess of the insurance policy limits.  The matter was resolved without the need to file a lawsuit, and without the client paying anything out of pocket on the verdict.
  • Sabre v. The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania. Hired months before trial to represent the worldwide travel technology leader in a $100 million insurance coverage dispute. Successfully settled the case on the eve of trial.
  • Aetna v. Ace Bermuda. Represented Ace Bermuda Insurance (now part of Chubb) in a $25 million coverage claim brought by the bankruptcy estate of Boston Chicken in bankruptcy court in Phoenix, Arizona. The case raised novel issues of bankruptcy procedure, international law, and the enforcement of arbitration agreements involving a bankruptcy trustee.
  • London Insurance Market Asbestos Cases. Defended insurance groups in the London Insurance Market including Equitas, a Lloyds of London runoff company, in litigation regarding asbestos insurance coverage, including bankruptcy adversary proceedings regarding Dresser Industries, a Halliburton subsidiary; Babcock & Wilcox Co., a McDermott International subsidiary; and Pittsburgh Corning Corp., a PPG Industries subsidiary. The firm tried the Babcock & Wilcox matter to the bench for many weeks and won. In both the Dresser Industries and the Babcock & Wilcox matters, our team ultimately achieved settlements for the London Market at very large discounts from the exposed policy limits, saving the firm’s clients hundreds of millions of dollars. Pittsburgh Corning ultimately withdrew the bankruptcy plan to which our clients were objecting.
  • Hertz v. City of Houston. Won a no liability verdict for The Hertz Corporation in a high-profile jury trial in which the plaintiff alleged violations of state insurance licensing laws and unfair and deceptive practices. In less than an hour of deliberations, the jury found for Hertz on all issues and rejected plaintiff’s claims for attorneys’ fees.