The First Circuit has held, under Massachusetts law, that an insurer’s actual knowledge of a claim does not excuse the insured from reporting the claim to the insurer as required by the policy. President and Fellows of Harvard College v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., 77 F.4th 33 (1st Cir. 2023). In so holding, the court followed a “well-beaten path” in Massachusetts recognizing that notice provisions in claims-made policies must be strictly enforced regardless of whether the insurer is prejudiced by the insured’s failure to comply with the policy’s notice requirements.
Harvard College, the insured, gave its primary insurer notice of the subject claim during the policy period, but did not notify its excess insurer, Zurich, until the policy period was long expired. Zurich denied coverage. Harvard did not dispute that it failed to provide Zurich with timely notice, but argued the excess policy should provide coverage if Zurich had actual notice of the claim during the policy period. The court disagreed, calling the argument “little more than gaslighting,” because arguing that actual notice should be sufficient is “simply another way of arguing that Zurich was not prejudiced by the lack of timely written notice.”