Get to the insured on time . . .

churchontimeCox Operating incurred significant expenses in cleaning up pollution and debris at its oil-and-gas facilities after Hurricane Katrina.  Its insurer disputed coverage.  After a lengthy trial, the district court awarded $9,465,103.22 in damages and $13,064,948.28 in penalty interest under the Texas Prompt Payment Act.  The Fifth Circuit affirmed in Cox Operating LLC v. St. Paul Surplus Lines Ins. Co., No. 13-20529 (July 30, 2015).

After finding that the one-year reporting requirement in Cox’s policy was not an unwaivable limitation on coverage, the Court confronted a “disturbing inconsistency” about the Act. On the one hand, the penalty-interest provision applies generally “[i]f an insurer that is liable for a claim under an insurance policy is not in compliance with this subchapter.”  On the other hand, of the Act’s variously deadlines, only one expressly ties its violation to the penalty provision.  The Fifth Circuit found for the insured, finding “the construction urged by St. Paul . . . would seem to transform all but one of the Act’s deadlines from commands backed by the threat of penalty interest to suggestions backed by nothing at all.”

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