Thursday, August 16, 2012


Alterra American Insurance Co. is attempting to intercept and free itself from its potential obligation to defend and indemnify its insured, the National Football League (NFL), in more than 90 concussion-related lawsuits by seeking a declaratory judgment from New York Supreme Court this week.

In the complaint filed on Monday, Alterra said the League is expecting the company to be involved in both defending and covering the League with respect to the concussion lawsuits wherein former NFL players or their survivors claim the players’ neurological injuries resulted from the NFL’s negligence and fraud.

Alterra asked the court to rule that it is not obligated to indemnify the NFL or NFL Properties and that it has no duty to defend the NFL in the concussion suits because there is a dispute between the two about how its policy should be read and interpreted.    Alterra claims that under the terms of the policy it is not required to provide coverage.

The list of lawsuits filed by former players such as Mark Rypien, Jamal Anderson, Jeff Hostetler, Art Monk, Alex Karras and Eric Dickerson takes up most of the complaint, nevertheless it represents just a portion of the hundreds of concussion-related lawsuits the NFL is facing.

Many of the suits have been consolidated into a single case in a district court in Pennsylvania.  The NFL is headquartered in New York and Alterra is a New York based company.

In the filing, New York-based Alterra said it issued the NFL and NFL properties an excess casualty follow form policy effective from Aug. 1, 2011, to Aug. 1, 2012. According to the court documents, the Alterra policy had per occurrence limits of $25 million and was excess a commercial umbrella liability policy with $50 million per occurrence limits written by Chartis Inc. and a commercial general liability policy with limits of $1 million per occurrence written by ACE American Insurance Co.

Alterra, which covered the league for only one year, is one of many insurance companies with which the league has a policy.  What can be expected is increasing amounts of pressure on the other insurance companies that provided coverage to the NFL while these players were members of the League and to either provide or deny coverage for these incidents. 

If the declaratory judgment were granted in favor of Alterra, Alterra would, essentially, be cleared from having to defend the league and pay for the damages associated with litigation that now involves more than 3,000 former players.

BY: Denise Santangelo, Esq.