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A caulking product company competitor’s litigation against the company cannot be considered disparagement or defamation under its coverage, says a federal appeals court, in upholding a ruling in favor of a Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. unit that said the insurer was not obligated to defend the company.
Mooretown, New Jersey-based Albion Engineering Co., which sells products such as caulking guns and dispensing accessories, was sued by a competitor on charges of false advertising and unfair competition, charging Albion claimed its products were made in the United States, when they were really made in Taiwan, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of appeals in Philadelphia in Albion Engineering Co. v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co.
Albion had an insurance policy with Hartford Insurance Group unit Hartford Fire Insurance Co. that said coverage would be provided if Albion became legally obligated to pay damages stemming from “personal and advertising injury.”
Hartford denied coverage, and Albion filed suit in U.S. District Court in Camden, New Jersey, which ruled in Hartford’s favor. The ruling was upheld by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.
For the suit to fall within the policy’s coverage, Albion must demonstrate that it had slandered or libeled its competitor or disparaged the competitor’s goods, products or services, said the ruling.
This was not the case, it said. The gravamen of the suit “is that Albion lied about Albion’s products,” not its competitor’s. The competitor’s suit, therefore, “does not meet the requirements for coverage under the Hartford policy,” said the ruling, in affirming the lower court’s judgment.
Attorneys in the case could not immediately be reached or had no comment.
In 2017, a federal appeals court ruled a Hartford Financial Services Inc. unit did not have to defend a policyholder against false advertising claims because the alleged disparagement of another company’s products was by “implication.”
A Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. unit may be obligated to indemnify a chocolate company that was victimized by a phishing scheme, says the Vermont Supreme Court, in a ruling that overturns a lower court decision.