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Vol. 11 - Issue 2

February 28, 2022


Supreme Court Justice Nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, And Insurance Coverage: What Could Have Been


As you are reading this, Senate staffers, journalists, bloggers and the like are scrutinizing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s hundreds of opinions, as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and D.C. Circuit Court, in search of information that could support or derail her confirmation as a SCOTUS justice.  We all know how the process works.

It is a safe bet that none of these sleuths will give more than a few seconds attention to Markel American Ins. Co. v. Metcor, Ltd., No. 14-1899 (D.D.C. Jan. 31, 2019).  It is the only opinion of the judge’s that I could locate addressing coverage for a property-casualty claim.  That there was only one came as no surprise.  The D.C. District Court and D.C. Circuit Court are pretty much barren wastelands when it comes to property-casualty coverage cases.

Even worse than there being just a single case, Metcor was nothing more than a very brief opinion, adopting the recommendation of a magistrate judge, concerning personal jurisdiction and a motion for a default judgment.  Deadly dull procedural stuff with nothing to do with coverage. 
But it gets even worse still.  The claim at the center of the dispute involved an 80-foot sailboat that had been damaged by either a manufacturer’s defect or -- get this -- a whale collision. Markel maintained that both were excluded under the policy.  No court, as far as I can tell, has ever addressed a whale collision as a covered cause of loss or exclusion under an insurance policy.  Although, I suspect that some coverage firms claim to have a very busy Whale Insurance Coverage practice group -- handling collision claims involving all manner of species of whales.      

[The whale collision claim itself, which was separate from the personal jurisdiction and a motion for a default judgment, was settled.]
So, basically, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who may spend decades on the nation’s highest court, addressing the most important cases and fundamental issues and rights, could have achieved another huge milestone -- first ever judge to weigh in on insurance coverage for a whale collision.

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