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Judge concerned insurance ruling has ‘broad-range consequences’ for future cases

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The Indiana Court of Appeals issued a lengthy opinion Thursday dealing with an insurance coverage dispute between a company headquartered in Indiana and its insurers regarding claims from Taiwanese workers that they were made ill from contaminants from a manufacturing plant.

Former factory workers and their heirs filed a class-action lawsuit in Taiwan against Thomson Consumer Electronics Television Taiwan Ltd., which owned and operated the manufacturing plant from the late 1980s to 1992. The workers alleged they were exposed to toxic solvents while working at the plant and living in dormitories near the plant. Less than 1 percent of the company’s stock is owned by Thomson Inc. n/k/a Technicolor USA Inc., which is headquartered in Indiana. Thomson was named as a defendant based on theories of corporate veil piercing and joint liability.

In July 2008, Thomson notified its primary insurers about the Taiwan class action. Three days later, Thomson filed its original declaratory judgment complaint against its primary and umbrella insurers, which included XL Insurance America Inc. and Century Indemnity Co. The trial court ruled XL and Century have a duty to defend Thomson.

A point of disagreement among the appeals judges in Thomson Inc. n/k/a Technicolor USA, Inc. v. Insurance Company of North America n/k/a Century Indemnity Company, et al., and XL Insurance America, et al., 49A05-1109-PL-470 was over the proration terms in XL’s and Century’s policies. The trial court, citing Allstate Ins. Co v. Dana, 759 N.E.2d 1049, 1058 (Ind. 2001), referred to as Dana II, found no clear or precise proration terms, so coverage is for all sums related to the insurance subject to policy limits. The policies in the instant case used “those sums” instead of “all sums.” Judges Terry Crone and Cale Bradford cited a case out of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana that contained similar policy language and held that the language at issue here is not subject to Dana II.

“We believe that the trial court will be best situated to select (and customize, if necessary) the fairest method of apportioning liability among the insurers in light of the factual complexities of the case at the appropriate time. And for that reason, we believe that the trial court should be afforded broad discretion in selecting and applying an apportionment method,” Crone wrote in the 83-page majority decision.

Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik dissented on this issue, writing that she agrees with Dana II and believes the language of the policies at issue is not specific enough to demand proration of damages.

“As Thomson points out in its brief, it will be difficult for a court to determine exactly when and in what amount damages occurred. The majority answers this by giving the trial-court judge two main tests to decide upon and ‘broad discretion in selecting and applying an apportionment method.’ This is unfair to the insurance companies, Thomson, and its employees,” she wrote.

“The risk that each of the parties calculated in offering and buying insurance is as uncertain post injury as ever. The majority opinion also has broad-range consequences for future long-tail coverage cases as the risk that each future insurer and insured calculate up front are not subject to change based upon the vicissitudes of the 400 trial-court judges who have received little or no direction from us.”

She agreed with her colleagues on all other issues, including the trial court’s finding of two “occurrences” under the XL and Century policies and that Thomson must satisfy the deductible for each occurrence for certain policies issued from 2000 to 2005.

The case is remanded for further proceedings.
 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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