August 30, 2017 Articles

Connecticut Court Adopts Continuous Trigger Theory and the Unavailability-of-Coverage Rule for Long-Tail Claims

The case involved several issues of first impression in Connecticut and one issue believed to be an issue of first impression in the nation, involving an occupational disease exclusion

by David R. Osipovich, Paul C. Fuener, and Isaac T. Smith

In a lengthy opinion officially released on March 7, 2017, the Appellate Court of Connecticut addressed a number of key liability insurance coverage issues in the context of long-tail asbestos bodily injury claims, certain of which were matters of first impression in Connecticut and one of which was a matter of first impression nationwide.

The decision in R.T. Vanderbilt Co. v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co.[1] constitutes a win for policyholders on several fronts—specifically, trigger of coverage and allocation, and non-application of the qualified pollution exclusion to underlying asbestos claims.

The Appellate Court also considered, and rejected, an argument increasingly being advanced by insurers that the latest developments in medicine regarding the etiology and progression of asbestos-related disease should radically revise long-settled trigger principles. In addition, the court considered and rejected the insurers’ argument that an “equitable exception” to the unavailability-of-coverage rule should be created, based on the record before it. Finally, the court held that the “occupational disease exclusion” applies to underlying claims for liability due to occupational disease regardless of whether the claimant was ever the policyholder’s employee.

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