A recent Texas Lawyer story by Angela Morris, “Six Flags Wants Insurer Travelers Casualty to Cover $2.89 Million in Attorney Fees,” reports that the Texas-based theme park filed new litigation seeking to force its insurance company to reimburse millions of dollars in attorney fees that it paid to some of the nation’s largest law firms—like Kirkland & Ellis and Perkins Coie. In the new federal court lawsuit in Dallas, Six Flags Entertainment Corp. has alleged that its insurer, Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America, has wrongfully denied the park its insurance coverage for attorney fees and legal expenses.
Six Flags spent the money to defend itself from a probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission into its business dealings in China, and from a class action and shareholder litigation related to the China dealings. Six Flags operates 26 parks in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, including four parks each in California and Texas, and two parks each in Georgia, New Jersey and New York, according to its website.
But COVID-19 has hit Six Flags hard: $82 million revenue in the first quarter of 2021 represents a 38% drop compared to the same time period in 2019, according to the company’s most recent performance report. The park’s legal troubles started in February 2020 with the SEC subpoena, according to the complaint in Six Flags Entertainment Corp v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
Six Flags had to pay more than $2.5 million in fees to law firms Kirkland & Ellis, Lionbridge, Parker Lynch and Fayer Gipson to defend itself against the subpoena, which asked for information about a partnership with a Chinese real estate developer regarding Six Flags parks in China, and a negative $15 million revenue adjustment. Insurance coverages for directors and officers and for organizational liability should have covered the company’s legal expenses, the complaint said.
Also in February 2020, two securities class-action complaints were filed against the company and two former executives over the same partnership and negative revenue adjustment. Substantively the same allegations arose in shareholder derivative lawsuits in federal and state courts against the company, executives and board members, said the complaint. Six Flags had to spend more than $290,000 in fees for lawyers at Perkins Coie to represent two company executives who were defendants in a class action, since there could be a conflict if the same attorneys represented the company and those individuals.
According to a search of federal court records on PACER, plaintiffs filed three shareholder derivative lawsuits that were consolidated into one case, and U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman on April 28 granted a motion to dismiss by Six Flags in the case, In Re Six Flags Entertainment Corp. Derivative Litigation. The defendants—Six Flags’ executives and board members—were represented by Kirkland & Ellis lawyers Jeremy Fielding of Dallas, and New York-based Daniel Cellucci, Sandra Goldstein and Stefan Atkinson. Pittman on March 3 granted Six Flags’ motion to dismiss in a consolidated class action matter, according to an opinion and order in that case, Electrical Workers Pension Fund v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp. Those defendants–Six Flags and two executives–had the same Kirkland & Ellis attorneys, said PACER.
In a different case—unrelated to the Chinese Six Flags parks–Six Flags had told its insurance company about a “crucial event matter” dealing with a potential proxy fight with a shareholder. Six Flags tapped Kirkland & Ellis to represent it, and the matter eventually reached an amicable agreement, said the complaint. Six Flags incurred more than $100,000 in legal fees for this outcome, and the complaint alleged that Travelers has refused coverage.
Aside from these legal actions, the complaint alleged that at other times, Travelers has tried to recharacterize and reallocate legal fees and expenses, that should have been covered by insurance. It alleged the insurer looked to lessen exposure and to decrease policy benefits paid to Six Flags.
The theme park company is suing its insurer for breach of contract, violation of a Texas insurance law that requires prompt and fair payment of claims, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. Six Flags has asked the court for a declaratory judgment that finds the Travelers policy should cover attorney fees and legal expenses. In addition to recovering those amounts from Travelers, it wants to be paid back for the legal fees it is spending to sue the insurance company, said the complaint.