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American Center for International Labor Solidarity v. Federal Insurance Co.

October 15, 2007

AMERICAN CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL LABOR SOLIDARITY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This insurance coverage dispute arises out of Defendant Federal Insurance Company's ("Federal") denial of coverage for losses incurred by Plaintiff American Center for International Labor Solidarity ("ACILS") in the defense and settlement of an employment discrimination lawsuit. Federal denied coverage based on ACILS' failure to provide notice of its participation in related United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") proceedings which Federal asserted was a "claim" under the insurance policy. The central question in this case is whether the EEOC proceedings constituted a "claim," where "claim" is defined in the policy to include "a formal administrative or regulatory proceeding commenced by the filing of a notice of charges . . . ." The Parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment on this dispositive question. After a searching review of the Parties' submissions, exhibits, statutes and case law, the Court shall GRANT [18] Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and DENY [19] Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The Federal Insurance Policy

The underlying material facts are undisputed.*fn1 Federal issued a Not-for-Profit Organization Liability Policy ("Federal Policy" or "Policy") to ACILS on July 16, 2002. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 1; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 1. The Policy provides coverage to ACILS (and its directors, trustees, officers and employees) for claims first made between July 16, 2002 to July 16, 2003.*fn2 Id. The Policy defines "claim" to include a:

(i) written demand for monetary damages;

(ii) civil proceeding commenced by the service of a complaint or similar pleading;

(iii) criminal proceeding commenced by the return of an indictment, or

(iv) formal administrative or regulatory proceeding commenced by the filing of a notice of charges, formal investigative order or similar document.

Policy § 22; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 6; Def.'s Resp. ¶ 6.

The Policy requires ACILS to give notice to Federal of any claim "as soon as practicable" as "a condition precedent" to coverage. Federal Policy § 7; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 5; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 5. Although Federal is obligated "to defend any Claim covered by this policy" and to cover all "Losses," Federal also has the right to "make any investigation it deems necessary" and "make any settlement of any Claim it deems expedient." Federal Policy §§ 1, 8. Finally, the Policy provides that all "Interrelated Wrongful Acts . . . shall be deemed [one] Loss," and "Interrelated Wrongful Acts" are defined as "all causally connected Wrongful Acts." Federal Policy §6; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 7; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 7.

B. The Nesbitt EEOC Charge And Lawsuit Against ACILS

On August 9, 2002, ACILS received a Notice of Charge from the EEOC indicating that a former employee, Mr. Rozell Nesbitt, had filed a Charge of Discrimination (the "Charge") against ACILS. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 12; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 12. The Charge alleged that ACILS had discriminated against Mr. Nesbitt on the basis of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Def.'s ¶ 13; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 13. The EEOC's notice also stated that "[n]o action is required on [ACILS'] part at this time. Pl.'s ¶ 9.

On November 14, 2002, ACILS received a second Notice of Charge from the EEOC. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 15; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 15. Unlike the first notice, the EEOC enclosed a two-page "perfected" Charge that described Mr. Nesbitt's claims in more detail. Id. See also Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. F (Nov. 14, 2002 Notice of Charge of Discrimination with attachments). Also unlike the first notice, the EEOC requested that ACILS either participate in mediation (described as a "voluntary, informal process" in the fact sheet attached to the EEOC notice) or forego mediation and submit to the EEOC a "statement of [ACILS'] position with respect to the allegations contained in this charge" ("Position Statement"). Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. F; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 10; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 16. ACILS declined mediation and asked its outside counsel to draft a Position Statement in connection with the Charge. Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 11; Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 17-18, 20; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 17. On December 19, 2002, ACILS' counsel submitted a 16-page Position Statement, with attachments, reciting ACILS' view of the facts and the law associated with Mr. Nesbitt's termination. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G (Dec. 19, 2002 Letter from M. Gilson and S. Brown to S. Leon). The Position Statement ...


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