Harvard University Wins in Insurance Litigation

Judge Rules Against Harvard in Case on Fumbled Insurance Filing

In a decision announced over the weekend, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled against Harvard University in the insurance litigation stemming from the October 2015 shooting of an unarmed Harvard student by a rogue former student. The student, who was convicted and sentenced to three-and-a-half years, had filed for a $1.6 billion fire insurance claim that Harvard denied. This was the first major college fire-insurance case that went to trial and Harvard won.

But the court ruled that Harvard in its defense counsel failed to provide the court with key documents showing that the university’s claims attorneys had been following applicable law.

“The court’s decision reflects the importance of ensuring that the public receives a complete and accurate record of what happened in the litigation, at every stage of discovery and trial,” said Jennifer P. Fick, of Boston-based Fenwick & West LLP, the law firm representing Harvard. “Had the court been provided with a complete, up-to-date summary of each filing and each party’s litigation position and argument, as well as the underlying facts and supporting documentation, and asked about and explained to the nature and extent of each document or piece of document, the court would have had much more confidence in both the court and the jury’s ability to understand what occurred in the case.”

What the decision means is that Harvard had “unclean hands” and the insurance claims filed were not allowed under New York and California law, which required Harvard to pursue the claim through an alternate proceeding.

The Harvard case began in 2016, when the law school denied the student’s insurance claim—a claim which eventually grew into Harvard’s largest-ever fine for misconduct.

In the summer of 2015, after an internal investigation, a Crimson investigation, and a second Crimson investigation, Harvard acknowledged that the student had filed a claim for an insurance claim that Harvard had determined would be denied. It was discovered

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