Spreadsheet Listing Asserted Damages is a “Claim”

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has held that the undefined term “claim” in a claims-made liability insurance policy included a spreadsheet detailing monetary damages based on failures of the policyholder’s products. Ritrama, Inc. v. HDI-Gerling Am. Ins. Co., No. 2015 WL 4730916 (8th Cir. Aug. 11, 2015).

Applying Minnesota law, the court concluded that “claim” meant an assertion by a third party that the insured may be liable to it for damages within the risks covered by the Policy.” The court reasoned that a “mere request for information is generally insufficient to constitute a claim, whereas a demand for relief generally constitutes a claim.”

Here, the policyholder’s dispute with its customer concerning product failures resulted in the customer sending a spreadsheet containing “the specific total of how much monetary damages [the customer] had sustained thus far,” sent before product-defect litigation was filed and before the inception of the claims made policy at issue. The court concluded that there was no reasonable way to interpret the spreadsheet as anything other than a demand for relief and noted further that the policyholder had treated the spreadsheet as a claim. The court therefore concluded that the “claim” at issue had been made prior to the inception of claims-made policy period at issue.

Wiley Executive Summary

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