• July 2, 2013
Photo by Duncan Hull

Photo by Duncan Hull

Update (July 2, 2013): Happy Birthday to UnitedHealth Group v. Starr Excess Liability Insurance, an insurance coverage lawsuit that turned 8 years old this past Saturday.  It is mind-boggling that this insurance coverage dispute is actually in a jury trial.  A jury, apparently, may be called upon to decide whether a “reasonable insurer” would have deemed a particular communication to have been notice of a particular insurance coverage claim under a particular insurance policy.  You can be sure these jurors are chomping at the bit to decide this case so they can parlay the experience into big bucks with appearances on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and so on…I am excited about the inevitable Hollywood version in years to come.

Original post (April 2013):  Legal analysis, when performed well, suggests the precision of mathematical problem-solving.  Riots do not break out in the street in our culture when science makes findings.  Most of us deem those findings to be “the truth” and the thought of protesting what is found to be “true” is thought to be irrational.

Where citizens go nuts is when legal decisions seem to be based on a judge’s ideological leanings, a judge’s caprice, or a less precise and robust decision-making process than, say, arithmetic.

Of course, some social controversies that find their way into courts defy this kind of dispassionate and systematic analysis.  Many lawsuits, however, lend themselves to it.

United Health Group has been battling insurers in U.S. District Court (D. Minn.) since June of 2005 with regard to insurance coverage for “hundreds of liability claims.”

Any student of insurance law or anyone wanting a lesson in very clear and methodical legal analysis should read this week’s decision by U.S. District Court Judge Patrick J. Schiltz (D. Minn.) on motions for summary judgment in this huge insurance coverage battle.

Anyone else might find trying to read this 44-page decision incredibly boring.

One thing that I noted, however, was that one insurer, National Union, got off the hook because United Health apparently failed to give notice during the time period of a “claims made” insurance policy to the claims department of the insurer as required under the policy.

“United, …itself a huge and sophisticated insurance company, …has no excuse for failing to send notice of the AMA claim to the Claims Department, as National Union’s policy clearly required United to do.”

Umm, yeah.  Most of us feel pretty badly when an unsophisticated consumer gets tangled up in insurance fine print, misses some obligation, and loses coverage.  But UHG? “C’mon.” (That is a favorite legal argument taught to me back in law school by Prof. Larry Kramer.)  (I previously invoked this argument in connection with a broken boat battle in which one side would not let the other side’s experts look at the boats.  I have not yet filed a one-word response brief with a court but that is a goal of mine some day.)

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