California Supreme Court Strikes Blow to Insurers' Choice-of-Law Provisions

May 18, 2020
J. Kelby Van Patten & Kevin C. Brantley - Payne & Fears

The California Supreme Court has struck a blow to insurers' attempts to contract out of more policyholder friendly jurisdictions, holding that the notice-prejudice rule is a fundamental public policy. Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Co., 2019 WL 4065521.

In Pitzer College, the Court analyzed a choice-of-law provision requiring that New York law applies to any policy disputes. New York courts apply a notice rule where an insured forfeits coverage based on late notice regardless of prejudice to the insurer. On the other hand, California courts apply a notice-prejudice rule requiring that an insurer show that it has been prejudiced by the late notice. Given that the notice-prejudice rule is a fundamental public policy, and the notice rule provides an insured fewer protections, the Court determined that New York must have a materially greater interest in determining the coverage issue for the choice-of-law provision to be enforced. This was left to the lower court to decide.

Reprinted courtesy of J. Kelby Van Patten, Payne & Fears and Kevin C. Brantley, Payne & Fears
Mr. Van may be contacted at kvp@paynefears.com
Mr. Brantley may be contacted at kcb@paynefears.com



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