The Third Circuit ruled on Friday that differing “occurrence” definitions can have materially different meanings in the context of whether product defect claims constitute an “occurrence” triggering coverage under general liability insurance policies. The Court held in Sapa Extrusions, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, that product claims against Sapa may be covered under policies that define an “occurrence” as an accident resulting in bodily injury or property damage “neither expected nor intended from the standpoint of the insured.”  However, the Court affirmed that coverage was not triggered under policies lacking the “expected” or “intended” limitation, reasoning that, under those policies, there was no question that the intentional manufacturing of Sapa’s product was too foreseeable to amount to an “accident.”

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Last February, a Pennsylvania federal court ordered rescission of an accidental contamination and government recall insurance policy issued to the H.J. Heinz Company after Heinz sought $25 million from its insurer for its business interruption losses sustained due to lead in its baby cereal. The district court based the rescission on findings that Heinz materially misrepresented its claim history when it purchased the policy. Heinz claimed the incorrect information was an inadvertent error by its new Global Insurance Director. Although a jury agreed that Heinz’s errors were unintentional, the district court found that even unintentional material misrepresentations were sufficient to void the contract.

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