Steven Plitt, Expert Witness Steven Plitt, Expert Witness
Insurance Bad Faith Claim Handling Expert Serving Clients Nationwide

PUTTING THE BRAKES ON SINGLE OCCURRENCE OUTCOMES IN ASBESTOS CASES

The Illinois Court of Appeals in Continental Casualty Co. v. Hennessy Industries, 2019 Ill. App. (1st) 180183 (April 23, 2019) reversed a trial court's ruling finding that there was only one occurrence arising from the insured's brake equipment asbestos exposure. The insured manufactured automobile brake equipment for 30 years. The insured was sued in thousands of lawsuits alleging asbestos exposure from the insured's brake equipment. The exposures were alleged to have occurred at numerous locations throughout the United States. The trial court held that notwithstanding the numerous locations where the exposures occurred there was a single occurrence for all lawsuits. In reversing the trial court, the court of appeals found that the insurance policies in question had a provision requiring exposures to substantially the same general conditions "existing at or emanating from each premises location shall be deemed one occurrence" applied to require all claims to be bundled into a single occurrence at each location.

The insured urged the appellate court to follow the "cause" test that was followed in Illinois in order to determine that there was a single occurrence finding there were multiple occurrences. Under the "cause" test, the number of occurrences was to be determined by the number of causes of the underlying damage or injury. However, the appellate court did not follow the cause test because it was contrary to the language of the policy. The court explained this deviation by finding that the cause test applied in situations where the policy itself did not clarify the issue. However, the policy in question did clarify the issue in this case.

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