Missed deadline costs Harvard $15 million in insurance to defend admissions policy | Tech US News


Harvard University’s failure to notify its insurer by the policy deadline cost it up to $15 million in insurance coverage to help cover costs associated with its ongoing defense of its affirmative action admissions program.

U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs in Boston yesterday denied Harvard’s request to compel Zurich Insurance to pay legal costs under the $15 million insurance policy, which she said was clear within the notice period and should strictly implement.

Harvard was required to notify Zurich in writing of any claim no later than January 30, 2016. Harvard first notified Zurich on May 23, 2017, well past the deadline.

“Simply put, because an unambiguous insurance policy must be used as written; the notice provision in the claims policy must be strictly construed; and Harvard’s failure to comply with the suspensive condition voids coverage,” Judge Burroughs wrote.

Harvard argued that Zurich had constructive and actual knowledge of the claims against it before the deadline because its primary insurer—a subsidiary of AIG National Union Fire Insurance Co. – wings the first $25 million in defense costs and because the issue was widespread. reported by the media and even discussed in meetings attended by staff in Zurich.

But none of those excuses changed Harvard’s obligation to provide notice in full compliance with the terms of the policy, the judge ruled.

The university defended its admissions policy against a lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admissions in 2014 and a Department of Justice investigation launched in 2017. Both primary and supplemental policies covered the claims in the year ending November 2015 , provided that Harvard notified the insurers. until January 2016.

While $25 million of the costs to date have been covered by National Union Fire Insurance Co.’s primary liability policy, the university wanted its $15 million excess insurance policy issued to cover costs above that amount. But Zurich denied coverage because Harvard missed a deadline to notify its claim. Zurich said the notice to the primary insurer did not satisfy its notice requirement.

Harvard said its defense costs consist of legal fees and expenses, costs related to electronic discovery vendors, expert fees and court costs. The school said it has and will continue to accrue defense costs.

SFFA alleged that Harvard College’s undergraduate admissions program used race in a manner that violated Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act and unfairly discriminated against Asian American applicants. Harvard was able to reach a verdict on all counts after a three-week trial. SFFA appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which ruled in favor of Harvard in November 2020, upholding the district court’s decision. The US Supreme Court heard SFFA’s appeal last week, and the DOJ investigation is still ongoing.

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