A Michigan federal court in Wolverine World Wide Inc. v. The American Insurance Co. et al., No. 1:19-cv-00010 (W.D. Mich.), recently confirmed what should go without saying – a claim handler is a claim handler, even if they may also be a lawyer.  Recognizing that it’s the nature of the work that drives the analysis, the court ordered an in-house Travelers’ attorney to sit for a deposition in a PFAS coverage suit because the attorney was performing ordinary claim-handling activity.  In rejecting the insurer’s arguments, the court reiterated that “an insurer cannot create a ‘shroud of secrecy’ by simply designating an attorney to conduct an otherwise ordinary claim investigation.”Continue Reading “The Lines Are Not Blurred”: Attorney Claim Handlers Are Not Protected by Attorney-Client Privilege

While liability for PFAS—Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, also known as “forever chemicals”—may be an emerging issue, the availability of insurance coverage for these and similar liability claims is not. “Commercial general liability,” or CGL, insurance was specifically designed to cover claims made by a company’s customers or customers of customers for resulting bodily injury and property damage. PFAS claims fit this bill. 

Though insurance companies have attempted to deflect from this intentionally broad coverage, CGL exclusions traditionally have been narrow. Even “pollution exclusions,” which have been raised by insurers facing PFAS claims, have limited scope. PFAS are products; and, thus, when drafting pollution exclusions, the insurance industry represented to regulators that they should apply only when (1) insurers can prove the policyholder expected or intended the alleged injuries and (2) only to true “industrial” pollution.
Continue Reading PFAS Product Liabilities and Defense Costs May Be Covered by Insurance

PFAS Regulation

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (“PFAS”) are a class of substances that have increasingly become the target of federal and state regulation in everything from drinking water, groundwater, site contamination, waste, air emissions, firefighting foam, personal care products, food and food packaging, and now consumer and commercial products. PFAS are widely-used chemicals that have the unique ability to repel both oil and water, which led to their application in many products including items such as stain and water-repellent fabric, chemical-and oil-resistant coatings, food packaging materials, plastics, firefighting foam, solar panels and many others. The carbon-fluorine bond is the strongest in nature, making these compounds highly persistent in the environment.Continue Reading PFAS Regulation and Insurance Coverage Implications

In 1938, a DuPont chemist’s experiment yielded not—as he first thought—a lumpen, waxy mistake, but a new chemical with remarkable properties: heat-resistance, chemical stability, and low surface friction. Decades of continuing experimentation yielded a class of chemicals with the capacity to make non-stick, water-resistant coatings. In time, these chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), would become a major component in thousands of consumer goods: food packaging, non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, paint, stain-resistant carpets and furniture, and firefighting foams. The discovery of the toxicity of these remarkable chemicals lagged behind the widespread adoption, but eventually yielded a moniker that reflected PFAS’s stability and longevity: “Forever Chemicals.”
Continue Reading PFAS: From Happy Mistake to Ubiquity to Toxic Liability (But is there coverage?)