Friable Thoughts

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Asbestos Defendants Win Insurance Coverage Case

While plaintiff's lawyers love to rail against corporate America, the actual entities that pay most of the settlements and verdicts in asbestos cases are the insurance companies that insure corporate America. So, there's been quite a bit of litigation between asbestos defendants and their insurance companies on just how much coverage is available.

One of the disputes is the meaning of the word "occurrence" in insurance policies. Many policies will limit the amount of coverage per "occurrence". If a corporate entity manufactured asbestos-containing products, they could get sued quite a few times. The issue in Wisconsin was whether an occurrence happens each time a company got sued by a new plaintiff or if the occurrence was the decision to use asbestos in their product and all the subsequent lawsuits derive from that one decision. The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that each time a plaintiff sues is a separate occurrence and thus, the insurance company is on the hook a bit longer than it wanted.

Plastics Eng'g. Co. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.