Exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. The first asbestos-related lawsuit was filed in 1966. A large number of workers who may have physical signs of exposure but not a debilitating disease are filing claims now out of concern that if they later develop an illness, the company responsible may be bankrupt, due to other asbestos claims. It can take as long as 40 years after exposure for someone to be diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness. In December 2012 A.M. Best increased its estimate of ultimate insurance industry asbestos losses from $75 billion in 2011 to $85 billion. A.M. Best attributes the jump to a spate of court rulings that increased insurance coverage for claimants, and a rise in claims related to mesothelioma, a fatal type of cancer identified with exposure to asbestos. In Congress a bill, Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency, was introduced in March 2013. The bill would require asbestos trusts, set up by companies to deal with asbestos claims to file detailed quarterly reports on claims and their resolution with the Executive Office of U.S. Trustees. (See Insurance Issues Updates: Asbestos Liability).
ESTIMATED ASBESTOS LOSSES, 2004-2013 (1)
INSURERS' LEGAL DEFENSE COSTS
Lawsuits against businesses affect the cost of insurance and the products and services of the industries sued. According to Towers Watson, an actuarial consulting firm, the American civil liability (tort) system cost about $265 billion in 2010 in direct costs, up from $180 billion in 2000. Tort costs rose 5.1 percent in 2010 after dropping 1.2 percent in 2009. Absent payouts from the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, tort costs would have shown an overall decrease of 2.4 percent in 2010, according to Towers Watson. The U.S. tort system cost $857 per person in 2010, up from $820 per person in 2009.
Most lawsuits are settled out of court. Of those that are tried and proceed to verdict, Jury Verdict Research data show that in 2012 the median, or midpoint, plaintiff award in personal injury cases was $75,000, up 87.5 percent from $40,000 in 2008.
Insurers are required to defend their policyholders against lawsuits. The costs of settling a claim are reported on insurers’ financial statements as “defense and cost containment expenses incurred.” These expenses include defense, litigation and medical cost containment. Expenditures for surveillance, litigation management and fees for appraisers, private investigators, hearing representatives and fraud investigators are included. In addition, attorney legal fees may be incurred owing to a duty to defend, even when coverage does not exist, because attorneys must be hired to issue opinions about coverage. Insurers’ defense costs as a percentage of incurred losses are relatively high in some lines such as products liability and medical malpractice, reflecting the high cost of defending certain types of lawsuits, such as medical injury cases and class actions against pharmaceutical companies. For example, in addition to $1.6 billion in products liability incurred losses in 2013, insurers spent another $1.2 billion in settlement expenses, equivalent to 75.1 percent of the losses.
DEFENSE COSTS AND COST CONTAINMENT EXPENSES AS A PERCENT OF INCURRED LOSSES, 2011-2013 (1)
MEDIAN AND AVERAGE PERSONAL INJURY JURY AWARDS BY TYPE OF LIABILITY, 2012
PERSONAL INJURY AWARDS
In 2012 the median (or midpoint) award in personal injury cases was $75,000, up from $60,000 the previous year, according to Thomson Reuters' Jury Verdict Research Series. The average award rose from $775,735 to $989,580 during the same period. Thomson Reuters notes that average awards can be skewed by a few very high awards and that medians are more representative. In cases of products liability, the highest median award was in transportation products cases ($2,643,000). In disputes concerning medical malpractice, the highest median award was in childbirth cases ($2,452,214). In cases involving business negligence, the highest median award was against transportation industries ($588,500).
Awards of $1 million or more accounted for 17 percent of all personal injury awards in 2011 and 2012, up from 13 percent in the prior two-year period. In 2011 and 2012, half of medical malpractice awards and 57 percent of products liability awards amounted to $1 million or more, the highest in the report. Vehicular liability and premises liability cases had the lowest proportion of awards of $1 million or more, at 7 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
TRENDS IN PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUITS, 2008-2012 (1)
CASUALTY COST OF RISK PER $1,000 OF REVENUE, 2006-2007
DIRECTORS AND OFFICERS LIABILITY INSURANCE
Directors and officers liability insurance (D&O) covers directors and officers of a company for negligent acts or omissions and for misleading statements that result in suits against the company. There are various forms of D&O coverage. Corporate reimbursement coverage indemnifies directors and officers of the organization. Side-A coverage provides D&O coverage for personal liability when directors and officers are not indemnified by the firm. Entity coverage for claims made specifically against the company is also available. D&O policies may be broadened to include coverage for employment practices liability (EPL). EPL coverage may also be purchased as a stand-alone policy.
Sixty-five percent of corporations purchased D&O coverage in 2013, according to the Cost of Risk survey from the Risk and Insurance Management Society, based on a survey of 1,441 corporations. Banks were the most likely to purchase D&O coverage, with 82 percent of industry respondents purchasing the coverage, followed by 78 percent of respondents in telecommunication services. The 2013 Director and Officers Liability Survey, based on a survey conducted by JLT PARK Ltd. of 171 U.S. organizations that purchase D&O liability insurance, found that the group’s average D&O limit
s purchased was $111.9 million and the median limit s purchased was $90 million. For public companies, the average limit was $145.4 million. For private companies, the average was $50.7 million. Nearly 20 percent (19 percent of public companies and 18 percent of private companies) increased their D&O limits from their previous purchase. According to the 2013 survey, 30 percent of respondents reported having had a claim in the past 10 years, with nonprofits reporting the highest proportion of claims (61 percent).
DIRECTORS AND OFFICERS LIABILITY CLAIMS BY TYPE OF CLAIMANT IN THE UNITED STATES, 2004-2013 (1)
DIRECTORS AND OFFICERS LIABILITY CLAIMS BY BUSINESS OWNERSHIP, 2002-2011 (1)
EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES LIABILITY
Employment practices are a frequent source of claims against directors, officers and their organizations. Organizations that purchase insurance for employment practices liability (EPL) claims typically either buy a stand-alone EPL insurance policy or endorse their directors and officers liability (D&O) policy to cover employment practices liability. In 2013, 11 percent of public companies responding to a JLT Park survey shared or blended their D&O limits with another coverage such as EPL or fiduciary liability, compared with 49 percent of private companies and nonprofits.
In 2013, 39 percent of the 1,441 respondents to a survey of risk managers by the Risk and Insurance Management Society said they bought EPL policies. Banks were the most likely to purchase EPL coverage, with 55 percent of industry respondents purchasing the coverage, followed by consumer staples (53 percent), telecommunications services (50 percent) and information technology (46 percent). AIG was the leading writer, based on EPL premiums written, with a 39.0 percent market share in 2013, followed by AXIS Capital Holdings Limited (11.8 percent), Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. (10.3 percent), Chubb Corporation (10.2 percent) and Alterra Capital Holdings Limited (6.7 percent).
TRENDS IN EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES LIABILITY, 2009-2013
Cornerstone Research has conducted annual studies of securities class-action lawsuit settlements and filings each year since the passage of the 1995 Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, enacted to curb frivolous shareholder lawsuits.
The number of securities class-action lawsuits filed rose 9.2 percent to 166 in 2013 from 152 in 2012, according to Cornerstone’s 2013 study. The 166 filings in 2013 compare with an annual average of 191 recorded between 1997 and 2012. In 2013 healthcare, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies accounted for 21 percent of total filings. Filings related to the financial crisis as well as mergers and acquisitions and Chinese reverse merger filings have continued to subside. Reverse mergers involve the acquisition of a private company by a public “shell” company, giving it access to capital markets.
Total settlement dollars in court-approved securities class actions in 2014 dropped to the lowest level in 16 years according to Cornerstone Research. The average settlement amount fell to the lowest level since 2000 at the same time. However, the number of securities class action settlements was almost unchanged from year ago, 63 in 2014 versus 67 in 2013. Reflecting an absence of large cases, total settlement dollars fell 78 percent, to $1.1 billion in 2014 from $4.8 billion in 2013. In 2014 the percentage of settlement dollars from mega-settlements (i.e., those in excess of $100 million) was the lowest in 16 years. The median settlement amount, which represents the typical case, fell slightly, to $6.0 million in 2014 from $6.6 million in 2013, although the average settlement size fell faster, to $17 million in 2014 from $73.5 million in 2013.
POST-REFORM ACT SETTLEMENTS OF SECURITIES LAWSUITS, 1996-2014 (1)