It seems that asbestos tort claims have been around forever, and insurance coverage litigation arising from such claims nearly as long. Since the beginning and continuing today, Reed Smith’s Insurance Recovery Group members have been at the forefront--obtaining billions from insurance companies for our clients. Starting with the Wellington Agreement through §524(g) bankruptcies to emerging asbestos coverage litigation in Europe, our people have been and continue to be at the forefront of the asbestos insurance recovery practice. Our members also have assisted in the analysis of available insurance coverage for asbestos claims as part of the due diligence for mergers and acquisitions.
Every time the “experts” predict that the end of asbestos litigation is nigh, they are proved wrong. New categories of defendants are continually brought into the cases, leading to further need to pursue insurance for these new defendants. By now, many issues that arose in the beginning of this litigation have been resolved in many states. This means that litigation with insurance companies can be avoided in many cases and our role is to assist in negotiating settlements, including coverage-in-place agreements. In other instances, however, litigation is necessary, particularly with respect to corporate successor rights under policies, “lost” policies, control over defense and settlement, aggregate limits, and allocation.
Because the stakes are so high--defense and indemnity costs can run into billions for a single asbestos defendant--insurance companies will litigate even weak defenses to coverage. In other cases, reluctant insurance companies that have agreed to pay for all or a portion of the defense must be pressed to hire competent counsel or to settle claims that have real potential to exceed the limits of insurance.
In the event of a claim, Reed Smith's Insurance Recovery Group analyzes potential coverage and advocates with the applicable insurance companies, through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, litigation, or a combination of each. If litigation or binding arbitration is necessary, our attorneys are experienced and zealous advocates in state and federal court, and have been successful in obtaining favorable results for clients. Our asbestos insurance clients include former manufacturers, distributors or installers of thermal insulation; friction products; surfacing materials; gaskets; and numerous other asbestos-containing products.