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Zurich off hook in real estate company dispute

Posted On: Jan. 24, 2022 4:15 PM CST


A Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. unit does not have to provide coverage to a real estate investment asset and property management company involved in litigation with a shareholder’s widow because it filed its claim too late, said a federal appeals court Friday, in affirming a lower court ruling.

A partner of Washington, D.C.-based UIP Cos. LLC, which specializes in multi-family properties in the Washington metropolitan area, died in April 2015 and his widow, Marion Coster, inherited his 50% interest in the companies, according to the ruling by the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Zurich American Insurance Co. v. UIP Companies LLC.

Ms. Coster began negotiations with UIP management to obtain compensation for her ownership interests in UIP, but negotiations turned sour, the ruling said.

In February 2018, Ms. Coster’s attorney sent an email to UIP’s counsel suggesting how the dispute could be resolved. In the summer of 2018, Ms. Coster filed three lawsuits against UIP and its principals, two in the Delaware Chancery Court and the third in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. That litigation is still pending.

UIP filed notice of Ms. Coster’s lawsuits to Zurich Insurance Group unit Zurich American Insurance Co. in March 2019, nearly nine months after Ms. Coster filed her first lawsuit against UIP and nearly seven months after Ms. Costar filed her third lawsuit, the ruling said.

Zurich denied coverage on the basis that its policies provided that a claims notice must be filed “as soon as practicable” after the insured first learns of the claim but “in no event” no later than 90 days after the relevant policy period’s expiration.

UIP filed suit in district court in Washington, D.C., seeking coverage. The court ruled in the insurer’s favor and was affirmed by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.

The attorney’s February 2018 communication “qualified as a claim under the terms of the Zurich policies,” it said.

“UIP asserts that its principals remained unaware that the Zurich policies covered the suits until months after they were filed. But the rule in the District of Columbia” is that an insured “is held to know the contest of his policy,” it said, in citing an earlier ruling and affirming the lower court’s decision.

Attorneys in the case had no comment.