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An Unexplained Delay of 28 Days In Disclaiming Coverage May Be Untimely

May 18, 2010

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Zevrone Realty Corporation, a holding company for a residential apartment building in the Bronx, sought coverage from its insurers for a sexual assault claim. Bronx Justice Kenneth Thompson, Jr. accepted, as a factual matter, that Zevrone's notice of the occurrence was untimely (a delay of almost one year to report an incident that would likely give rise to a claim against management). But Judge Thompson was asked to determine whether the insurers delay in issuing disclaimers on grounds of late notice were untimely.
Citing the general principle that an insurer must give written notice of disclaimer as soon as is reasonably possible after it first learns of grounds for disclaimer of liability, Judge Thompson found that a delay of 98 days was unreasonable as a matter of law (thus granting summary judgment against Federal Insurance Company), and ruled that American International's delay of 28 days raised a question of fact as to whether the delay was "reasonable" under the circumstances (thus allowing the action to continue against American).

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