Massachusetts Judge Holds That Insurer Breached Its Duty To Defend Lawsuit After Chemical Spill

Illustration man mask chemical spill

This decision highlights the importance of burden shifting in duty to defend situations.

October 16, 2018
Lawrence J. Bracken, II & Alexander D. Russo - Hunton Insurance Recovery Blog

A District Court Judge for the District of Massachusetts recently ruled that Ace Property and Casualty Insurance Co. breached its duty to defend its insured in a lawsuit brought by Plaistow Project, LLC, after a family owned laundromat leaked chemicals onto Plaistow Project’s property. Plaistow Project, LLC v. ACE Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., No. 16-CV-11385-IT, 2018 WL 4357480, (D. Mass. Sept. 13, 2018). Plaistow Project sued State Line Laundry Services in state court, and ACE denied coverage under the pollution exclusion in State Line Laundry’s insurance policy. Plaistow Project then settled with State Line Laundry. Under the settlement terms, Plaistow Project was assigned State Line Laundry’s rights against ACE.

In the subsequent coverage litigation, Plaistow Project alleged that ACE had breached its duty to defend State Line Laundry under its insurance policy. ACE argued that (1) the burden was on the policyholder to demonstrate that the policy’s “sudden and accidental” exception applied to the policy’s pollution exclusion; and (2) the policyholder could not show the “sudden and accidental” exception applied based on the complaint.

Reprinted courtesy of Lawrence J. Bracken, II, Hunton Andrews Kurth and Alexander D. Russo, Hunton Andrews Kurth
Mr. Bracken, may be contacted at lbracken@HuntonAK.com
Mr. Russo may be contacted at arusso@HuntonAK.com



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