The Virgin Islands are beautiful. The Virgin Islands insurance scenario is pretty ugly right now. One question that has been posed to us several times since Hurricane Irma and Maria struck is whether venue clauses requiring suit to be filed somewhere other than the Virgin Islands are valid.
Kesha Hodge of Merlin Law Group grew up in the Virgin Islands and has been practicing first-party property insurance for years in Phoenix. She has returned to the Virgin Islands and will be heading up our efforts to help policyholders with insurance claim disputes.
Kesha Hodge and I researched the topic of venue and jurisdiction clauses found within insurance policies covering property in the Virgin Islands and found that:
The Insurance Code provides, in pertinent part,
(a) No insurance contract delivered or issued for delivery in this territory and covering subjects located, resident, or to be performed in this territory, shall contain any condition, stipulation, or agreement which-
(1) requires it to be construed according to the laws of any other territory, state or country except as necessary to meet the requirements of the motor vehicle financial responsibility laws of such other territory, state or country;
(2) deprives the courts of this territory of the jurisdiction of action against the insurer …
The [Virgin Islands] Legislature has set a very clear policy dictating that forum selection clauses and choice-of-law clauses cannot be enforced when the subject matter of an insurance contract is in the Virgin Islands.1
Merlin Law Group attorney Corey Harris has also been active with Virgin Island hurricane claims. Corey and Kesha have recently written about property insurance issues for those facing Virgin Island insurance claims questions:
- Recent Bulletins from the Virgin Islands Division of Banking, Insurance and Financial Regulation
- Insurance Bad Faith in the Virgin Islands
- Time Limitations in Virgin Islands Insurance Claims After Hurricane Irma
- Business Interruption Will Play Big Role in Rebuilding the U.S. Virgin Islands After Irma
Thought For The Day
“Every problem has a solution. You may not see it in front of you, but, sooner or later, a solution will appear before your eyes.”
― Ubaldina M. Gibbs
1 Neon Construction Enterprises, Inc. v. International Bonding and Construction Services, Inc., No. ST–11–CV–13, 2012 WL 3111748 (V.I. Super. July 25, 2012).