Life Insurance

Harvard College sues Zurich over denied legal fee coverage

Harvard College has filed a lawsuit against its excess insurance company Zurich American Insurance Company after the insurer refused to cover the school’s legal fees.

The college was saddled with over $25 million in legal fees defending its admissions practices against anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) in a separate lawsuit. According to a brief filed by Harvard with the Massachusetts District Court, it had exceeded the $25 million policy limit through its primary liability insurance policy with AIG – the college alleged this triggered a secondary insurance policy it has with Zurich, but the insurer failed to cover the remaining legal fees. Harvard also highlighted in its brief that it had paid all premiums and complied with all the conditions of the policy.

Harvard had officially reported the SFFA suit to Zurich sometime in May 2017, when the initial insurance limit under AIG was “far from being exhausted.” But Zurich denied the claim in a letter sent months later on October 25, 2017.

Although the brief did not exactly specify the amount Harvard is demanding from Zurich, college newspaper The Harvard Crimson reported that a $75,000 in controversy is necessary for the court to review the case. Harvard is also requesting the court to compel the insurer to cover future legal fees in the SFFA admissions lawsuit up to its policy limit of $15 million.

Zurich has denied responsibility for Harvard’s legal fees incurred from the SFFA lawsuit. The insurer claims that the college failed to provide sufficient prior notice of the case. This was contended by Harvard’s attorneys, who said that Zurich “had knowledge of” the claim due to national media coverage.

Harvard College is the undergraduate college of Harvard University.

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