Commercial general liability policies typically provide coverage to insureds for losses resulting from property damage caused by an “occurrence,” usually defined in the policy as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same harmful conditions.” In the context of food recalls, however, the exact cause of the food damage, whether contamination, spoilage or something else, may be unknown. This creates uncertainty, and in turn, a coverage dispute, over whether the cause of damage was indeed accidental, and thus a covered “occurrence.” In a recent article for Food Safety Magazine, Syed Ahmad and I analyze three recent cases involving coverage for food industry insureds where the courts found the cause of loss to constitute an “occurrence,” triggering the policy’s coverage. The full article is available here.
Product recalls are on the rise in many industries. As regulatory and consumer protection standards are getting tougher, product supply chains are becoming more complex. This increases the risk of errors, defects and contamination at all levels of operation. Too often, these problems do not manifest themselves until after a product hits the market. All of this can lead to staggering expenses for food and product manufacturers facing the risks and realities of product recalls.
On May 27, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington allowed a declaratory judgment action filed by the Seattle Times Company for excess coverage to proceed to trial despite the insurer’s arguments that the underlying policies had not been exhausted.
An article titled “A Primer On Insurance Coverage for Food Contamination Losses”, written by Syed Ahmad and Matthew McLellan, was published in the April 2016 issue of Food Logistics Magazine. The article provides an overview of insurance protection for food contamination events confronted by companies in the food and beverage supply chain. The article describes the availability of coverage under standard-form policies as well as specialized coverage for food contamination events. Through illustrations based on recent high profile contamination events and product recalls, the article provides insight on the type of losses that may be covered, the necessary proof of loss, as well as some of the pitfalls and limitations on coverage that policyholders may face.