New Marine Insurance Case from Fifth Circuit – St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans

New marine insurance case from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. It relates to whether a "bumbershoot" insurance policy is a marine contract, giving the federal court admiralty jurisdiction. The trial court held it was and the Fifth Circuit affirmed in an unpublished decision. The insurer did prevail on its attempt to have New York law apply to the dispute, instead of Louisiana law – the forum. All things being equal, a valid choice of law provision in a contract will be enforced. The court did so and New York law applied. Under New York law, an insured's failure to provide timely notice of a claim is a complete defense to coverage. The policy required the insured to send notice to all "Underwriters" which was defined as "insurers subscribing to this Policy." The court found that the failure to provide such notice triggered the complete defense under New York law and found the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the excess carriers to be appropriate. The case is St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Board. of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 5318 and can be found here. Note: a bumbershoot policy is akin to an umbrella policy in the maritime context. Chubb's definition here, Traveler's here.

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