NBCUniversal Loses Legal Battle Over Meaning of "War"

An insurance company convinces a judge that what occurred between Israel and Hamas in 2014 wasn't terrorism, as the media giant contended.

NBCUniversal could be out $6.9 million thanks to an insurer's argument of understanding war better than the media giant. On Friday, a California federal court handed Atlantic Speciality Insurance Company a summary judgment victory in a legal fight emanating from the halting of production of USA Network's Dig.

Production of the series about an American FBI agent investigating a death was interrupted in 2014 when rockets attributed to Hamas were launched into Israel. During nearly two months of strife that left thousands dead, producers suspended filming and later completed it in New Mexico and Croatia. 

Universal attempt to get Atlantic to cover its "extra expenses," and when the insurer refused, saying that war was excluded under the policy, Universal filed suit in California federal court.

According to Universal, Hamas rocket fire amounted to "terrorism," which wasn't excluded. 

In summary judgment motions, both sides trotted out the dictionary with Atlantic arguing that Universal was ignoring the reality of warfare in the 21st century and talking about what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Here, while the acts of 9/11 were horrific, so were the events of the 50-Day War," argued Atlantic's lawyer. "While approximately 3,000 people died in 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 events of 9/11 occurred on a single day, while the conflict between Israel and Hamas lasted for a full fifty days. And far more traditional weapons of war were used by Israel and Hamas as opposed to Al-Qaeda on 9/11. Other comparisons between these two horrible events need not be made to state the obvious: War is war."

Universal thought this was absurd.

"In the post 9/11 world, insureds reasonably expect the two risks [terrorism and war] will be treated separately, and underwritten and evaluated by an insurer separately. To conflate the two, as Atlantic is doing here, means that an insured who pays for terrorism insurance is not getting the benefit of its bargain if coverage is precluded by the war exclusions,"  asserted the studio.

U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson is lining up with the insurer's troops, announcing in chambers today that Atlantic's summary judgment motion was being granted. The judge said a more detailed opinion would follow.

We'll update when it is made available.

In the meantime, the insurance company wins the battle. As for the war, that might depend on what an appeals court says.

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