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Berkshire specialty insurance unit sues Goodyear over asbestos claims

Berkshire specialty insurance unit sues Goodyear over asbestos claims

(Reuters) — Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Co. said it has sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to avoid having to cover asbestos-related injury claims that Goodyear said nothing about for seven years.

The specialty insurance unit of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is seeking unspecified damages in its federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday in Akron, Ohio, where Goodyear is based.

Goodyear spokesman James Peate said the company does not discuss pending litigation.

Berkshire said Goodyear claimed to have in 2008 exhausted a policy from another insurer for the asbestos claims, but waited until November 2015 to seek reimbursement from Berkshire for "several millions of dollars" under an excess insurance policy.

It also said Goodyear had never asked for help in defending against the claims prior to November 2015.

About 62,000 claims are pending against Goodyear in states including Florida, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas over alleged exposure to asbestos-containing products as floor tiles, furnace hoses, gaskets and heat shields, Berkshire said.

Many companies stopped using asbestos by the mid-1970s after it was linked to cancer and other diseases. The effects of exposure to the substance can take decades to surface.

Goodyear's excess policy, issued by Berkshire predecessor Stonewall Insurance, covers the period from July 1, 1976, to July 1, 1977, Berkshire said.

Berkshire is seeking a court declaration that it need not cover claims for Goodyear from 2008 to November 2015, and can recoup some money it has since paid on Goodyear's behalf.

Lawyers for the Berkshire unit did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance is a commercial property/casualty insurer created in 2013. The unit is based in Omaha, Nebraska, like its parent, and led by Peter Eastwood, who had run American International Group Inc.'s property/casualty businesses in the Americas.

The case is Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Co. v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, No. 17-00714.

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