Choice of Laws Test Mandates Application of California’s Continuous and Progressive Trigger of Coverage to Asbestos Claims

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Attorneys Christopher Kendrick and Valerie A. Moore analyze Textron v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co.

June 1, 2020
Christopher Kendrick & Valerie A. Moore – Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP

In Textron v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. (No. B262933, filed 2/25/20), a California appeals court held that the Restatement’s choice of laws factors mandated application of California’s continuous and progressive trigger of coverage to asbestos claims, overcoming an argument that a manifestation trigger should apply under Rhode Island law.

Travelers insured Textron from 1966 to 1987. In 2011, Textron was sued by a California resident, Esters, for damages caused by mesothelioma resulting from asbestos exposure in California. The action was defended and settled by Travelers and other insurers under reservations of rights. Textron sued Travelers in California for a declaration that Travelers owed duties to defend and indemnify the Esters action. Travelers cross-complained, seeking reimbursement.

The case turned on choice of law for trigger of coverage as between California and Rhode Island. Citing Montrose Chemical Corp. v. Admiral Ins. Co. (1995) 10 Cal.4th 645 and Armstrong World Industries, Inc. v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1, the Textron court noted that California applies a continuous trigger to continuous or progressively deteriorating injury. By contrast, in Rhode Island a covered occurrence exists “when the damage … manifests itself, … is discovered or, … in the exercise of reasonable diligence is discoverable.” (Citing Textron, Inc. v. Aetna Cas. and Sur. Co. (R.I. 2002) 754 A.2d 742.) According to Travelers, the Esters action was not covered under Rhode Island law because the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was not diagnosed until 2010, after Travelers was off the risk.

Reprinted courtesy of Christopher Kendrick, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP and Valerie A. Moore, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP
Mr. Kendrick may be contacted at ckendrick@hbblaw.com
Ms. Moore may be contacted at vmoore@hbblaw.com



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