Maryland’s highest court recently heard arguments regarding the proper method of allocation of the covered damages from a slowly progressing asbestos injury amongst insurance policies in place over a period of years. Rossello v. Zurich American Insurance Company, Case No. 2436 (Md. 2019). The court may also be forced to determine what the proper trigger of coverage is for latent bodily injury claims, although the plaintiff has not framed the issue in that manner.
In Rossello, the plaintiff, Patrick Rossello, worked for a period of years for the now-defunct Lloyd E. Mitchell, Inc. (“Mitchell”), a construction company operating until 1976. In 1974 he was exposed to and inhaled asbestos fibers. He was ultimately diagnosed in 2013 with malignant mesothelioma as a result of that exposure. Rossello obtained a judgment for approximately $2,700,000 against Mitchell and secured the right to pursue its insurance. As relevant to this dispute, Mitchell carried liability insurance policies, which provide coverage for asbestos related claims, from 1974 to 1977.
Rossello seeks to hold Zurich, as successor to Maryland Casualty Company, accountable for the full value of his award, based on the 1974 policy. Although this contention actually implicates two separate issues, plaintiff’s counsel passed over the initial trigger of coverage issue and focused instead on the issue of allocation of coverage.