The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department’s June 23 decision in Dupree v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., Case No. 653412-11, highlights the importance of negotiating favorable language in a fraud exclusion, a standard feature in D&O liability insurance policies that precludes coverage for claims arising out of fraudulent or criminal acts committed by the insured, typically as determined by a final adjudication in the underlying action.
In Dupree, the insured, Rodney Watts, sought coverage for defense of a criminal action alleging (i) conspiracy to commit bank fraud, (ii) bank fraud, and (iii) making false statements. Scottsdale paid for Watts’ defense through his conviction and sentencing pursuant to a preliminary injunction. Scottsdale, however, sought to be relieved of its obligation to pay for Watts’ subsequent appeal – and to recoup defense costs it had already paid – based on the operation of the policy’s fraud exclusion, which became operable only upon a “final judgment” against the insured. The question before the court was simple enough: when is a judgment final for purposes of triggering the fraud exclusion? In particular, is a judgment final during the pendency of an appeal?