NBCUniversal could be out S$9.5 million over definition of ‘war’

Studio giant battles insurer – and the judge gives the nod to the insurance company

NBCUniversal could be out S$9.5 million over definition of ‘war’

Insurance News

By Ryan Smith

It turns out insurers know war better than Hollywood studios. At least, that’s the decision of a federal judge in a case that could mean NBCUniversal is out nearly $7 million.

A California federal court has granted a summary judgment to Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company in a legal battle between the insurer and the studio, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

At the root of the $6.9 million dispute is the 2015 mystery-thriller, Dig. Set in Jerusalem, the now-defunct show was about an American FBI agent investigating a death.

The show was filming in Israel in 2014 when real life intruded. In June of that year, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed. When the teens’ bodies were found, Israel blamed Hamas militants for the deaths. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel, which in turn retaliated with an invasion of Gaza. By the time a cease-fire was declared in August of 2014, about 2,220 Palestinians, 67 Israeli soldiers, and six Israeli civilians were dead, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The events are popularly known as the “50-Day War,” although no war was officially declared.

The conflict, obviously, made the area unsafe for visitors. In July, NBCUniversal decided to move the production of Dig out of Israel. The show completed filming in New Mexico and Croatia.

At issue is the studio’s attempt to get Atlantic to cover “extra expenses” incurred during the filming. Atlantic refused coverage, saying that war was excluded under its policy, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The studio sued, maintaining that the Hamas rocket attack was terrorism, not actual war.

Atlantic accused NBCUniversal of ignoring the reality of warfare in the modern age. The insurer compared the 2014 conflict to the events of 9/11.

“While approximately 3,000 people died on 9/11, approximately 2,200 died in the 50 –Day War and an additional 11,000 Palestinians were wounded and over half a million people were displaced,” the insurer’s lawyer said. “The events of 9/11 occurred on a single day, while the conflict between Israel and Hamas lasted for a full 50 days. … Other comparisons between these two horrible events need not be made to state the obvious: war is war.”

NBCUniversal argued that Atlantic was conflating war and terrorism, which would mean “that an insured who pays for terrorism insurance is not getting the benefit of its bargain if coverage is precluded by the war exclusions.”

However, US District Court Judge Percy Anderson agreed with Atlantic, issuing a summary judgment on the insurer’s behalf. The judge said a more detailed opinion would be issued later, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

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