Harvard can't force insurer to cover $15 million in race defense costs - judge

Harvard can’t force insurer to cover $15 million in race defense costs – judge

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  • Harvard missed deadline to file secondary insurance claim, judge says
  • The school has already spent $27.5 million to defend a race case in the Supreme Court

(Reuters) – A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Harvard University waited too long to ask an insurer to cover up to $15 million of its expenses to defend its race-conscious admissions policies in a high profile case currently before the United States Supreme Court.

US District Judge Allison Burroughs in Boston has ruled in favor of a unit of Zurich Insurance Group Ltd just two days after the country’s high court heard a case involving Harvard that could spell the end of consideration of the race in college admissions.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based Ivy League School, represented by Marshal Gilinsky of Anderson Kill, did not respond to a request for comment.

Harvard sought coverage from its primary insurer, a unit of AIG Inc, shortly after a lawsuit was filed in 2014 alleging its adoption of racially-conscious admissions policies that help black applicants and Hispanics to discriminate against Asian Americans.

The race-based lawsuit argues that Harvard’s actions violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This case was brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a group founded by affirmative action opponent Edward Blum. He also filed a similar lawsuit against the University of North Carolina, which the Supreme Court heard Monday along with Harvard.

In the lawsuit against Zurich filed last year, Harvard said defense costs for the student group’s challenge and related government investigation had already exceeded AIG’s $25 million police limit. , which included a deductible of $2.5 million.

Harvard said defense costs in excess of those limits should have been covered by its secondary insurer Zurich, but the insurer declined, saying the police required Harvard to notify a claim by January 30, 2016, but the university waited until May 23. 2017 to do so.

Harvard lawyers countered that Zurich “surely knew” about the high-profile case and that the “technical failure” to comply with the notification requirement should not provide Zurich with an “escape route”.

But in a four-page decision, Burroughs said it was “clear that Zurich’s absence of bias or constructive or even actual knowledge would not alter Harvard’s obligation to provide advice in full compliance with the terms politics”.

Harvard’s legal fees dwarf those of Students for Fair Admissions, which spent less than $8 million to pursue the cases, according to tax filings. UNC said it had incurred $24.4 million in expenses through mid-July.

Harvard is represented in the race case by attorneys for Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, including Seth Waxman, who defended him in Monday’s Supreme Court proceedings.

The case is President and Fellows of Harvard College v. Zurich American Insurance Co, US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, No. 21-cv-11530.

For Harvard: Marshall Gilinsky, Ethan Middlebrooks and Jade Sobh of Anderson Kill

For Zurich: Andrew Margulis and Andres Avila of Ropers Majeski; and Paul Muniz of Donovan Hatem

Read more:

Harvard says it didn’t need to tell insurer about Asian discrimination lawsuit

U.S. Supreme Court conservatives oppose admissions of racially-conscious students

Harvard says defense costs $25 million in affirmative action case

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nathalie Raymond

Thomson Reuters

Nate Raymond reports on federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.

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