NY District Court Provides Guidance on Insurance Notice Provisions Northern District of New York, February 19, 2019
NEW YORK — In the latest decision in a long-running series of cases involving coverage for thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits filed against Fulton Boiler Works, Inc., the Federal District Court for the Northern District of New York established principles for the application of a notice provision in an insurance policy.
Travelers Casualty and Surety Company was one of several insurers in Fulton’s coverage block between 1976 and 1993. As often occurs when a company becomes the target of asbestos litigation, the insured did not discover the Travelers policies until litigation had been ongoing for several years, and it did not discover all of the Travelers policies at the same time. Thus, though suits against Fulton commenced in the early 1990s, Travelers did not agree to participate in the defense of the claims until 2004, and then only as to one policy year. Travelers denied any other coverage. However, over five years later, Travelers conceded that it owed four years of coverage, for the years 1976-1980.
In the instant decision, the court provided guidance as to which suits Travelers had received proper notice. The court held that materials provided to Travelers in 2008/2009, which contained all of Fulton’s asbestos litigation materials and an index thereto, provided proper notice as to the three policy years for which Travelers acknowledged coverage in 2009. However, for the policy year that Travelers acknowledged in 2004, the 2008/2009 materials were late notice, and Travelers had no responsibility for that policy year. An additional list was provided to Travelers in 2012, but the court left it to the parties to decide whether individual claims described in the 2012 list were timely noticed and/or disclaims consistent with the court’s ruling.