Cuomo Wins Dismissal of NRA Claims Over ‘Murder Insurance’

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo won dismissal of some claims by the National Rifle Association that he wrongfully targeted the gun rights organization for illegally marketing an insurance product in the state.

The NRA sued in 2018 claiming it was being singled out by New York officials who opened a probe into a product for NRA members dubbed “murder insurance” by the group’s critics. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy in Albany tossed out claims against Cuomo, in his official capacity, and the Department of Financial Services, a powerful state regulator.

Still pending are claims against the governor in his individual capacity.

The NRA’s First Amendment claim against former DFS head Maria Vullo also survived, while a “selective enforcement” claim against her was thrown out. The judge ruled it was “plausible to conclude” that her statements in guidance letters and alleged “backroom exhortations” to regulated insurers and banks could be viewed as a “veiled threat” to part ways with the NRA “or risk DFS enforcement action.”

‘Constitutional Freedoms’

William A. Brewer III, a lawyer for the NRA, said in a statement that the decision “reaffirms that all public officials” are “accountable under the First Amendment.”

“It will allow the NRA to pursue discovery and bring important evidence to light -- to expose the communications and coordinated efforts of New York officials and others to harm the NRA and impinge its constitutional freedoms,” Brewer said. “The message is clear: the NRA will stand up to those who unlawfully interfere with its Second Amendment advocacy.”

Cuomo’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the decision.

His partial victory in the lawsuit comes as the Democratic governor is separately facing calls to resign amid claims of sexual harassment and a finding by the state attorney general that his administration undercounted Covid deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%. Cuomo has said he communicated poorly on the nursing homes. He has denied the harassment claims and refused to step down while they’re being investigated.

New York claimed the NRA acted as an unlicensed insurer by marketing Carry Guard insurance to residents in 2017. Carry Guard offers coverage for costs associated with the deliberate use of a firearm, prompting critics to dub it “murder insurance.” Such coverage is illegal in New York, the state claimed.

The investigation previously led insurer Chubb Ltd. and broker Lockton Cos. to halt their programs for NRA members and pay millions of dollars in fines. Lloyd’s of London stopped underwriting NRA products.

The case is National Rifle Association of America v. Andrew Cuomo et al., 18-cv-0566, U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York (Albany).

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