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Litigation news—US Juries create $200 billion headache for all types of insurance companies

Liability, Litigation, Other

The Financial Times reported yesterday that the global insurance industry is facing massive new liabilities from US juries, which have been rapidly stepping up awards to plaintiffs across the board—from tainted diapers to medical malpractice to motor insurance. Overall, the incidence of $10 million dollar or more payouts has tripled in the United States for professional liability cases in just the past three years. [1]

For insurance companies, this represents an unfavorable headwind at a time when the industry faces a squeeze on profits, with the need to increase reserves for larger payouts a further burden. Although many corporations believed the battle over tort reform had been won ten years ago, experts interviewed for the article note the “growing social mood against big business” has led many juries to “think they can hold big companies to account without consequence.”

Underwriters note that large awards tend to have a snowball effect, with future plaintiff demands inflating and eventually trickling down into day-to-day claims. The FT also notes the increased aggressiveness of damages litigation is also fueled by litigation finance firms—including publicly traded firms which court investors to back lawsuits financially in return for a cut of any awards. Although some industry insiders believe this new inflation of payouts will be sorted out in time by higher premiums to reflect the increased risk, this shift remains notable and worth keeping an eye on for those involved in complex litigation.

[1] Ralph, O. (November 2019) US jury payouts leave insurers ‘facing $200bn hole’ from Financial Times https://www.ft.com/content/5fb9aef8-07fb-11ea-a984-fbbacad9e7dd Accessed November 22 2019

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