In late May 2017, the American Law Institute met to approve the Proposed Final Draft of the first ever Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance – the culmination of over seven years of work on this project. Not surprisingly, many of the issues discussed in the Restatement have been hotly contested by insurers. The proposed Restatement is important for retail industry insureds because courts around the country may look to this new Restatement in ruling on common insurance coverage disputes arising out of product liability actions, recalls and environmental contamination. For example, some of the most hotly debated sections of the proposed Restatement include, (1) policy interpretation principles, such as when a term is deemed ambiguous; (2) the standard for determining the insurer’s duty to defend; (3) the insurer’s duty to make reasonable settlement decisions; and (4) the allocation of liability in long-tail environmental claims.
While in many instances the reporters simply opted for the majority rule, in a few instances, the Restatement may seek to move the law on key issues to align the law and the incentives underlying insurance and claims-handling. In a recent article for Risk Management Magazine, Hunton Insurance Coverage lawyers Lorie Masters, Syed S. Ahmad and Andrea DeField address these key sections of the Proposed Final Draft and what they mean for policyholders.