Rescission of Insurance

Rescission Is a Remedy That Must be Used with Care

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Rescission of InsuranceInsurers must use the rescission remedy with care. Insurers should never assume that the promise to pay indemnity to the insured under a policy of insurance can, with impunity, be broken by advising the insured that the insurer has rescinded the policy.

Rescission without sufficient evidence is wrongful. Rescission without the advice of competent counsel is a tactic fraught with peril. Rescission without a thorough investigation is dangerous. Where no valid ground for rescission exists, the threat or attempt to seek such relief may constitute a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing which is implied in the policy and expose the insurer to tort damages for that breach, including punitive damages.

One plaintiffs’ lawyer became wealthy when he learned that claims people were given a rubber stamp that said “RESCISSION” and had no idea what it was, what was needed to prove rescission and even how to spell “rescission” jurors were angered and punished the insurer.

The policyholder’s lawyer would take the claims person’s deposition and ask them to spell the word. When the claims person failed his bad faith case was established. When they spelled the word correctly, he would ask the adjuster to state the elements necessary to effect a rescission. Almost none could answer appropriately.

If sufficient evidence exists, the rescission remedy will deprive the insured or the insurer of all rights under the policy. The court will conclude that the contract never existed and neither party has any right under the contract.

When an insurer submitted undisputed evidence that the disclosure of potential claims or suits is material to it in the underwriting of professional liability policies and according to the declaration of its underwriter the nature and circumstances giving rise to a potential claim or suit affect whether the insurer will increase the premium charged for the policy, change the policy terms or reject the submission without a quote.

The question on the application plainly sets up an objective standard, not simply the insured’s subjective assessment of the likelihood of suit. From an objective standpoint, any experienced civil litigator would know that the attitude of a client or former client who has suffered a loss in court can quickly move from acceptance to recrimination, especially after consultation with independent counsel.

Without specific and admissible evidence the rescission will fail. A thorough investigation collecting admissible evidence and in full compliance with state law must be convincing before rescission is attempted.

Adapted from my book The Equitable Remedy of Rescission of Insurance Available as: A Kindle book, A Paperback or a hardcover

(c) 2023 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.

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