California judge: 2014 Gaza conflict was war

Legal battle over insurance for ‘Dig’ TV show dismissed before trial

June 5, 2017 21:43
2 minute read.
protective edge

Video filmed during last year's Gaza war by fallen IDF soldier Major Benaya Sarel ‏. (photo credit: IDF)


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The fighting between Israel and Gaza in the summer of 2014 was officially a war – at least, according to a Los Angeles judge.

The ruling came in relation to USA Network’s TV show Dig – an FBI thriller set in Jerusalem – which has been the center of an ongoing legal battle for at least a year.

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The TV series, which was canceled after one season, was shot, at least partly, in Israel in June 2014. As tensions began to heighten in what would eventually become a deadly, 50-day ground operation, the production crew decided to leave Israel and finish filming in Croatia and New Mexico.

NBCUniversal, USA’s parent company, filed a $6.9 million insurance claim with its Atlantic Insurance Company to cover the unexpected costs. The show’s policy offered full coverage in case of terrorism, but not in the case of war. NBC argued that the crew was forced to relocate due to Hamas terrorism, while Atlantic said it was a war, though the Israeli government never declared it as such.

On Friday, Judge Percy Anderson dismissed NBC’s claim and accepted Atlantic’s motion for summary judgment, ending the case before it could go to trial. The judge noted that a more detailed judgment will follow; nothing further has been filed with the courts system as of press time.

Atlantic, in its winning motion calling on the judge to dismiss the claim, said it was obvious the war exclusion should apply to the Gaza fighting.

“The conflict lasted 50 days, killed thousands, injured thousands more, and devastated both sides,” the motion read. Atlantic added that many news organizations, including those affiliated with NBC, referred to the conflict as a war during their reporting.

Both sides cited pages and pages of supporting evidence, from previous case law to media coverage, government reports and emails from NBCUniversal staff on the ground and even dictionary definitions.

Atlantic even included an amusingly titled one-page section, “A Brief History of Israel and Palestine.” The insurance company detailed the brutal 50-day conflict and asked: “What else is such a conflict if not a war?”

“Plaintiffs prefer to focus narrowly on the actions of only one of the combatants – Hamas – to the exclusion of the other – Israel – and characterize the conflict as mere terrorism in the hope of avoiding the war exclusions,” lawyers for Atlantic wrote. “This position ignores the reality of warfare in the 21st century.”

The judge’s ruling put to an end the year-long legal battle that included dozens of motions filed since Universal’s 2016 original claim that alleged Atlantic abandoned “its insured at this perilous time.”

Both Universal and Atlantic filed motions for summary judgment, asking the court to close the case in their favor without going to trial. But the judge sided with Atlantic, agreeing with its claim that “there can be no disagreement that the conflict was known around the globe as a war.”

Universal, meanwhile, can still appeal the ruling.

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