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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. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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