No notice, no prejudice, no coverage. And we mean it.

On June 18, two separate panels — one addressing a chemical spill, the other a vessel crash into an oil well — reached the same conclusion in published opinions:  when an insured fails to give notice within the agreed-upon period, as required by a “negotiated buyback” endorsement to a policy, the insurer does not have to show prejudice to void coverage.   Settoon Towing LLC v. St. Paul Surplus Lines Ins. Co., No. 11-31030; Starr Indemnity & Liability Co. v. SGS Petroleum Service Corp., No. 12-20545.  The notice provision was seen as part of the basic bargain struck about coverage.  Both opinions — especially Starr, arising under Texas law — recognized the continuing viability of Matador Petroleum v. St. Paul Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 174 F.3d 653 (5th Cir. 1989), in this situation, notwithstanding later Texas Supreme Court cases requiring prejudice in other contexts arising from the main body of a policy.  Settoon went on to address other issues under Louisiana insurance law, including whether the Civil Code concept of “impossibility,” which focuses on a failure to perform an obligation, applies to a failure to perform a condition precedent such as giving notice.

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