Insurer looks to part ways with NFL

Updated: August 14, 2012, 9:40 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

A company that the NFL was hoping it could count on to help in its defense against concussion lawsuits is seeking to separate itself from the league.

Alterra America Insurance, which provided the NFL with an excess casualty insurance policy last season, has asked for a New York State Supreme Court judge to issue a declaratory judgment in its favor that would clear the firm from having to defend the league and pay for the damages associated with litigation that now involves more than 3,000 former players. Many of the player suits have been consolidated into a single case in a district court in Pennsylvania.

In a complaint filed on Monday, Alterra said the league had expressed it was expecting the company to be involved in both defending and covering the league should it lose in court.

Calls and emails made to Alterra, and a lawyer representing the company, were not returned.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said league officials couldn't specifically comment because its legal team has not been served with the papers related to the action.

McCarthy provided ESPN.com with a statement the league has been using for some time.

"The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so. Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league's actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions."

Alterra, which covered the league for only one year, is one of many insurance companies with which the league has a policy. No other insurance company that has a relationship with the league has balked in defending and perhaps paying off future claims.

As the concussion lawsuits mount, a significant amount of pressure has been put on the insurance companies. In April, Riddell, the official helmet of the league which has been included in many of the player lawsuits, filed suit in California, after it said that three of the nine companies that it had insurance policies with -- ranging in time from 1959 to 1980 -- either failed to acknowledge the league had coverage with them or contested the insurance company wasn't liable for current claims against Riddell.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter