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Chubb Ltd. is not obligated to contribute to a $1.5 million asbestos settlement on Anheuser-Busch LLC’s behalf because of a pollution exclusion in its coverage, said a federal court Tuesday, in ruling against a Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. unit.
Zurich American Insurance Co. provided coverage to St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch for personal injury liability and excess liability coverage from July 1972 until July 1980, when Insurance Co. of North America, now part of Chubb, began insuring the company for bodily injury liability for the next 17 consecutive years, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. District Court in St. Louis in Zurich American Insurance Co. v. Insurance Co. of North America, et al.
In 2008, the estate of the wife of a former Anheuser-Busch employee filed a wrongful death suit against the company, contending her husband allegedly carried asbestos and asbestos dust from the company brewery where he worked, and she “inhaled and ingested” these asbestos dust particles and fibers when she came into contact with her husband and while laundering his work clothes, according to the ruling.
Zurich agreed to defend Anheuser-Busch in the case subject to a reservation of rights to seek contribution for the periods insured after 1980. The case was settled in 2014 for $1.5 million.
Zurich filed suit against INA seeking a contribution to the settlement in district court, and both insurers filed motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether INA was obligated to contribute to the $1.5 million settlement as well as $79,298 in defense costs.
The court ruled in INA’s favor, based on its policy’s pollution exclusion even though Zurich contended the exclusion does not “expressly or clearly include asbestos.”
INA contends its pollution exclusion bars coverage because it involved “an irritant, contaminant, and/or pollution which ‘discharge(d), dispers(ed), release(d) or escape(d) into ‘the atmosphere’ thereby injuring the underlying decedent,” said the ruling.
The court agreed. “There is no ambiguity in the terms of the policy, which plainly bars coverage for the types of asbestos claims” raised in the case, said the ruling.
Zurich’s attorney had no comment while Chubb’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week, a federal appeals court upheld dismissal of litigation filed against Liberty Mutual Insurance Group based on a policy pollution exclusion, after agreeing with the lower court that the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness should be excluded.
A manufacturer has a duty to issue a warning when its product requires incorporation of a part that is likely to be dangerous, said the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday in a divided opinion in an asbestos case.