An epic legal battle with big implications for litigation funding

FOUNDED by former African American slaves, the west African country of Liberia has produced an insurance case that has bounced between the courts of several countries for a quarter of a century, condemning the claimants and their opponent to a generation of legal bondage. At long last, the saga might just be drawing towards a conclusion. It may also leave a legacy: to shift the calculus when third-party litigation funders assess the risks they face.

In the early 1990s, Liberia’s biggest importer, Lebanese-owned AJA, sued Cigna, an American insurer, in the federal court in Philadelphia for refusing to pay out over property damage incurred during Liberia’s civil war. AJA won, but a district-court judge overturned the verdict with a “judgment notwithstanding the verdict”—a rare device that can be employed when a jury is deemed to have deviated far from the law (in this case by failing to acknowledge a war-risk exclusion). The judge’s move was upheld by a higher appeal court.

Livid, AJA applied to Liberian courts and in 1998 won a judgment for $66.5m (now worth double that with interest). Cigna counter-sued, and in 2001 won an…Continue reading

This post was originally published in the Economist.

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An epic legal battle with big implications for litigation funding

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