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White and Williams Defeats Policyholder’s Attempt to Invalidate Asbestos Exclusions

January 23, 2014

White and Williams attorneys scored a significant victory for the insurance industry on January 15, 2014, when a federal jury of four men and four women rejected a policyholder’s novel efforts to invalidate asbestos exclusions contained in insurance policies issued between February 1, 1979 and August 1, 1985. 

In General Refractories Co. v. First State Ins. Co., Civil Action No. 04-CV-3509 (E.D. Pa.), General Refractories Company contended that asbestos exclusions in insurance policies issued by various insurance companies in the late 1970s and 1980s had not been submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance for approval prior to use and, therefore, were unenforceable.  Holding a failure to obtain approval, by itself, would not be sufficient to render the exclusions unenforceable, the Honorable Edmund Ludwig sent the matter to trial to determine whether the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner implemented a policy that was uniformly executed by the Insurance Department to disapprove all asbestos exclusions between February 1, 1979 and August 1, 1985, such that the exclusions violated a “dominant public policy.”   

In a multiday trial on that issue conducted before the Honorable Felipe Restrepo, the jury saw Insurance Department and insurance company records and heard testimony by a former Pennsylvania Deputy Insurance Commissioner, a 31-year employee of the Pennsylvania Insurance Department who served as a policy examiner from 1972 to 1986, and the manager of one of the insurance company’s state relations and compliance department.  A former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, presented by the insurers as an expert on insurance regulatory practices in Pennsylvania, also testified, explaining to the jury how insurance commissioners could create Insurance Department policy and offering her opinion that no such policy against asbestos exclusions ever existed.  After deliberating for less than an hour-and-a-half, the jury returned its verdict in favor of the insurers.

The White and Williams trial team was comprised of Patricia Santelle, Greg LoCasale, Ed Koch, Michael DiFebbo and Paul Briganti. If you are interested in obtaining more information about this issue and/or the trial, please contact Ms. Santelle (santellep@whiteandwilliams.com) or Mr. LoCasale (locasaleg@whiteandwilliams.com).

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This correspondence should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation with any specific legal question you may have.

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