Monthly Archives: October 2011
Travelers Insurance Company (TRV.N) put 25 percent more into its asbestos claim reserves this year than it did last year. It’s the latest large insurance company that has indicated that problems stemming from asbestos issues are worsening. The company recently announced that is involved in more litigation and significant payouts connected to asbestos related injuries.
However, although such claims are on the rise, the medical community reassures that the actual incidence of asbestos related illnesses, such as mesothelioma, are declining. For cases that emerge, doctors opt for more aggressive treatment, which contributes to rising costs for insurers.
Asbestos was at one point a popular insulating material, but is now known to cause severe lung diseases. Claimants say that insurers such as MetLife knew about the harmful effects of asbestos as long back as the 1920s. Yet insurance companies continue to deny any such knowledge about asbestos.
Numerous insurers, including Lloyd’s of London, almost experienced financial ruin due to asbestos claims. Despite the avoidance of asbestos for new construction since the 70’s, victims of asbestos exposure often do not learn about their illness for at least 30 years.
According to A.M. Best, a ratings agency, the industry faces roughly $75 billion in exposure to asbestos claims, suggesting that some insurers are still not fully reserved for claims that they may inevitably face.
Roughly $36.8 billion remain in personal injury trusts for pay out to present and future asbestos litigation claims. This is according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released earlier this week.
The trusts are in place to address the increased number of bankruptcy filings over the past decade. Since the first trust was established in 1988, all the trusts have distributed $17.5 billion, including $3 billion to 475,000 claimants in 2010.
According to the GAO report, most asbestos related claims are settled out of court and contain confidentiality clauses that guard the identities of the defendants as well as plaintiffs.
Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, along with other illnesses that effect large segments of the population, including carpenters, welders, shipyard workers, roofers, plumbers, veterans, etc.
SCOTUS Declines Review of Whether Insurer Can Enforce Arbitration Clause in Asbestos Injury Claims Case
The United States Supreme Court recently declined to review an insured’s case on whether an insurer can enforce an arbitration clause in an asbestos related injury claims case. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals had decided that Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co. was not prevented from seeking arbitration under a settlement agreement with George V. Hamilton, Inc. (GVH)(a PA based commercial installer of industrial insulation).
Nationwide had participated in the agreement until 1996, at which point it claimed that its policy limits had been exhausted. Nationwide raised the arbitration provision of the settlement agreement in 2007, after GVH filed new asbsestos related claims with Nationwide and other insurers.
A federal district court precluded Nationwide from invoking the clause, since GVH had terminated the agreement in a previous dispute with other insurers. The Supreme Court refused GVH’s petition for writ of certiorari, however, which the company sought after a federal district court of appeals reversed the lower court’s ruling, allowing Nationwide to seek arbitration.