Breaking News: Connecticut Supreme Court Decides Significant Coverage Issues in R.T. Vanderbilt

Three judges sitting behind bench

White and Williams attorneys analyze R.T. Vanderbilt Company v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company, et al.

December 16, 2019
Patricia B. Santelle & Ciaran B. Way - White and Williams LLP

On October 4, 2019 (almost two years after granting certification), the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court’s rulings on four key coverage issues in R.T. Vanderbilt Company v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company, et al. The coverage dispute in Vanderbilt concerns underlying actions alleging that talc and silica mined and sold by the insured contained asbestos and/or caused asbestos-related disease. The case has been proceeding in phases, two of which have been tried to date, resulting in the matter on appeal.

(1) “Continuous Trigger” Theory of Coverage Applies: The Court affirmed and adopted the Appellate Court’s opinion applying a “continuous trigger” for the underlying claims at issue, and agreed that the trial court properly excluded testimony from medical experts the insurers had proffered to prove that the asbestos disease process did not support a continuous trigger.

(2) The “Unavailability of Insurance” Exception to Time-on-Risk Pro Rata Allocation Applies: The Court affirmed and adopted the Appellate Court’s ruling that (a) damages and defense costs should not be allocated to any period in which insurance was “unavailable” in the market, (b) the insurers bear the burden of proving that coverage for asbestos liabilities was available to the policyholder after the date asbestos exclusions were added to the policies and (c) the insured bears the burden of proving that it was unable to obtain asbestos coverage prior to 1986 (when such insurance was generally available). The Appellate Court recognized that, in certain circumstances, there could be an “equitable exception” to the unavailability rule if the insured continued to manufacture products containing asbestos after 1986 with the knowledge that such products were hazardous and uninsurable (circumstances which the court found were not present in this case).

Reprinted courtesy of Patricia B. Santelle, White and Williams LLP and Ciaran B. Way, White and Williams LLP
Ms. Santelle may be contacted at santellep@whiteandwilliams.com
Ms. Way may be contacted at wayc@whiteandwilliams.com



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