UPDATE: The Deepwater Horizon Drilling Rig Accident Continues to Cause Ripples: Texas Supreme Court Holds That Defense Costs are Not Liabilities Under Insurance Policy

UPDATE: The Supreme Court of Texas recently refused an application for rehearing and declined to revisit its January holding that defense costs are not liabilities under an energy insurance policy. That decision, in the matter captioned Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, et al. v. Houston Casualty Company, et al., stemmed from the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling-rig accident that has been called, “the largest accidental marine oil spill in U.S. history.” The Court held that Lloyd’s of London Underwriters (“Lloyd’s”) were liable to cover approximately $112 million as a result of policy language that the Court interpreted as distinguishing between “liability” and “expenses.”

The case involved the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Anadarko E&P Company, L.P. (collectively, “Anadarko”) and a group of insurance underwriters led by the Houston Casualty Company (the “Underwriters”). Anadarko was a 25% minority interest holder in the Macondo Well that blew out in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. Anadarko reached a settlement agreement with BP under which Anadarko agreed to provide its 25% interest and to pay $4 billion to BP in exchange for a release and indemnity against all other liabilities arising out of the accident. Anadarko’s legal fees and defense expenses were not included in the settlement agreement, and Anadarko sought these fees and expenses from the Underwriters pursuant to its “energy package” insurance policy.

The most recent decision is the result of a coverage dispute that has gone on for several years. Lloyd’s argued in its application for rehearing that the circumstances and usage of the disputed terms as understood in the energy insurance industry, as well as the intent of the parties in this instance did not support the conclusion the Court reached in its opinion. The Court disagreed, though it did not provide further explanation for its refusal to rehear the matter upon the application of Lloyd’s, which is the norm.

The upheld decision remains of interest to the community of insured parties and insurer parties alike, especially given its connection to the infamous Deepwater Horizon accident.

Jordan M. Asch, an Associate in the Gibbons Environmental Department, authored this post.
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