Missouri appeals court rules for asbestos defendant in case against excess insurers

By Sam Knef | Oct 19, 2017

ST. LOUIS — A company that designs, installs and distributes pressure valves for refineries and chemical plants has mostly prevailed in challenges brought by "excess insurers" who were ordered to pay defense costs in asbestos litigation at St. Louis City Circuit Court.

In an opinion issued Oct. 3, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District affirmed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of Nooter Corp., finding that an "all sums" allocation applies to all of the policies addressed. The court remanded the case to the trial court to determine the award for attorneys' fees.

Nooter had litigated against eight insurance companies that provided excess coverage over their obligations to defend in asbestos cases it faced in St. Louis.

The companies include Evanston Insurance Co., National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Allianz Underwriters Insurance Co., Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London and Certain London Market Insurance companies, Appalachian Insurance Co., Munich Reinsurance America Inc., North Star Reinsurance Co. and OneBeacon America Insurance Co.

Nooter had first sought funds from its primary carriers to pay claims of more than 20,000 lawsuits, but as they became exhausted, the company turned to excess policy coverage.

According to the ruling, one of the complications in identifying which policies cover the periods of asbestos exposure that form the basis of a particular lawsuit, which are mostly "long-tail" claims.

"Long-tail claims involve allegations of continuous or escalating damages over a range of time, sometimes spanning several years, or even decades; this is often the case for asbestos claims," the ruling states. "Unlike most tort actions, where the causal event and resulting injury occur almost instantaneously (e.g., an automobile accident), identifying the timing of the causal event(s) is often difficult or impossible in long-tail claims."

St. Louis City Circuit Court has been labeled a "judicial hellhole" by the American Tort Reform Association in part due it becoming a court where asbestos plaintiffs from all over the U.S. bring their suits.

Analysis of filings in 2016 showed that St. Louis was the fourth most popular court system for asbestos litigation across the country.

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