A recent First Circuit ruling underscores that a well-negotiated insurance policy can cover claims for which state law has no remedy. In Starr Surplus Lines Ins. Co. v. Mountaire Farms Inc., Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Company insured AdvancePierre Foods Inc., a maker of ready-to-eat lunches and sandwiches. In 2015, a string of salmonella outbreaks were linked to chicken in AdvancePierre’s products, prompting AdvancePierre to recall more than 1.7 million pounds of chicken. The recall cost AdvancePierre over $10 million, which Starr covered under AdvancePierre’s product-contamination policy.

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The Eleventh Circuit recently ruled, applying Alabama law, that a breach of warranty claim constitutes an “occurrence,” triggering coverage under a general liability insurance policy, and that the policy’s contractual liability exclusion does not bar coverage from any resulting liability. See Pa. Nat’l Mut. Cas. Ins. Co. v. St. Catherine of Siena Parish, No. 14-12151, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 9659 (11th Cir. June 10, 2015). The decision underscores that coverage exclusions must be construed narrowly and in favor of coverage, and that insurers must use precise language when they seek to exclude coverage for a particular type of exposure.

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