September 30, 2003 by Canadian Underwriter
A unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals, second circuit, is being lauded by insurers as a “devastating blow” to the lawsuit by World Trade Center (WTC) leaseholder Larry Silverstein.
The court supported in part insurers’ contention that the destruction of the buildings in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks should be considered one event, not two. Silverstein has argued that because two planes flew into two separate buildings, this constitutes two insured events, thus doubling the claim payout to almost US$7 billion.
Part of the confusion arises from the fact that the insurance coverage on the Twin Towers was not yet finalized when the terrorist attacks happened. There is dispute over whether Silverstein is subject to the “Wilprop” policy form, which defines an insured “occurrence” is such a way that the attacks would be considered one event, or a Travelers form, which does not have a clear definition of occurrence. The court decision means that at least three of the 24 insurers are bound by the “Wilprop” form, and says the attacks can be described as a “single, continuous, planned event causing a continuum of damage that resulted in the total destruction of the WTC”. The court pointed to conversations indicating all insurers other than Travelers were signed onto the Wilprop form.
Swiss Re, lead insurer in the case, says it is confident that when the case goes to jury, the same decision will be made. “Despite Silverstein’s best efforts to spin it otherwise, the Second Circuit’s decision signals loudly that Silverstein’s bid to double his insurance recovery is failing fast,” states a Swiss Re press release.