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Judge Won’t Rethink California Transfer In Insurer Football Suit

Judge Won’t Rethink Calif. Transfer In Insurer Football Suit
Primary Content and Reporting By Jeannie O’Sullivan

Law360, New York (May 05, 2015, 9:09 PM ET) — A New Jersey federal judge ruled on Tuesday that an Amtrust at Lloyd’s Ltd. suit against a former University of Southern California football player seeking $4 million in coverage for lost potential NFL earnings must stay in the Golden State, where it was transferred from the Garden State.
U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler’s rejected Amtrust’s motion to reconsider the judge’s March decision granting ex-USC player Morgan Breslin request for a new venue. Amtrust’s suit claims that the former NFL draft hopeful, who filed an insurance claim after a season-ending injury in September 2013, can’t recover benefits because he made “misrepresentations, omissions and/or concealments” in the application and didn’t inform the insurer of changes in his health.

Breslin’s stock for the 2014 NFL draft fell after he suffered a season-ending injury in a September 2013 game against Arizona State University, and he subsequently filed a claim for benefits under the policy, according to court documents, which didn’t specify the injury.

“We are satisfied that the case will be heard in the proper venue of Los Angeles, California. We are also confident that the California court will recognize that Amtrust acted in bad faith in denying Morgan’s claim and suing him,” attorney Bryan Fisher, representing Breslin, told Law360. Noting that Breslin’s injury was followed by the “insult” of Amtrust’s denial and suit, Fisher said his client hopes the case will “establish a precedent that will help other collegiate athletes avoid the hardship he has endured.”  

Amtrust had asserted that the suit should stay in New Jersey because that’s where Breslin’s policy was negotiated and issued. Judge Chesler, who had dismissed as moot Breslin’s motion to toss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction, sided with his venue change arguments that he had no ties in the state and had filed his own suit in California federal court seeking to force the insurer to pay $4 million and damages.

The judge on Tuesday rejected Amtrust’s claims that the court had erred in concluding that the insurer failed to oppose the transfer and then misapplied all six of the private interest factors and one of the public interest factors of the transfer analysis set forth in the Third Circuit’s ruling in the 1995 case Jumara v. State Farm Ions. Co.

“Neither one is a clear error of law or fact warranting reconsideration,” Judge Chesler said.

Noting Amtrust had the burden to prove an intervening change in the controlling law or availability of new evidence, the judge said Amtrust’s argument emphasized why the suit should stay in New Jersey but didn’t factor in the governing venue transfer statute or the transfer analysis factors.

The judge also blasted Amtrust’s argument that transfer was barred under the first-filed rule, which permits courts to consolidate cases involving the same parties and issues. Amtrust filed a declaratory action in New Jersey federal court on Dec. 12, the same date the insurer said it notified Breslin that it was denying coverage.

“The timing strongly suggests that Amtrust’s simultaneous denial of coverage and filing of this action, before Breslin had the opportunity to bring suit in another forum and possibly before he even knew of the coverage decision, is the kind of inequitable conduct which would weigh against deferring to Amtrust’s choice as the first-filed forum,” the judge said.

Representatives for the Amtrust did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

Breslin is represented by Bryan Fisher of Fisher Injury Lawyers in both the New Jersey and California cases.  Bryan Fisher is a top attorney representing athletes in disability and loss of value claims.  His roster of consultation and lawsuit client athletes includes Breslin, Marcus Lattimore, Stefan Wisniewski, Ciron Black,  Miles Dieffenbach among others.  He is perhaps the most capable, well known and successful lawyer in this challenging area of law.

The cases are Amtrust at Lloyd’s Ltd. v. Breslin, case number 2:14-cv-07761, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, and Breslin v. Amtrust at Lloyd’s Ltd., case number 2:15-cv-00330, in the U.S. District Court for California’s Central District.

–Additional reporting by Jeff Sistrunk. Editing by Richard McVay and Kat Laskowski.  Additional content by Fisher Injury Lawyers.
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