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Textron, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty & Surety Co.

Superior Court of Rhode Island

August 10, 2017

TEXTRON, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVELERS CASUALTY & SURETY COMPANY, LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, and HANOVER INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          Wayne E. George, Esq.; Gordon P. Cleary, Esq. For Plaintiff:

          Dana M. Horton, Esq.; Steven J. Boyajian, Esq.; John P. For Defendant: Graceffa, Esq.; John H. Bruno II, Esq.

          DECISION

          SILVERSTEIN, J.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Textron, Inc.'s (Textron) motion for partial summary judgment. Textron's motion is directed at one defendant, Travelers Casualty & Surety Company (Travelers), and limited to one issue: whether Travelers has a duty to defend Textron against seven asbestos-related personal injury lawsuits. The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 9-30-1.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         Textron has been named as a defendant in a number of lawsuits alleging injuries resulting from asbestos exposure. Jack Aff. ¶¶ 3-4; Randle Aff. ¶¶ 2-3. To date, well over half of those lawsuits have been dismissed and a smaller fraction of them have been settled. Jack Aff. ¶ 4. Many of the lawsuits against Textron were brought in jurisdictions beyond Rhode Island's borders. See Randle Aff. ¶ 3. However, seven of them were filed in Rhode Island, in our Superior Court.[2] Jack Aff. ¶ 5. It is on those seven lawsuits (collectively, the R.I. Lawsuits) as to Travelers' duty to defend that Textron focuses its motion for partial summary judgment.

         From January 1, 1966 to January 1, 1987, Textron was covered by comprehensive general liability insurance policies issued by the Aetna Casualty & Surety Company (Aetna), policies that Travelers has since acquired. Id. ¶ 14; see also Exs. 8, 9. Although there were various iterations of the insurance policies during those twenty-one years, Textron and Travelers agree that the operative language relating to coverage for personal injury liability largely remained the same. See Travelers' Opp'n to Textron's Mot. Partial Summ. J. 2 (Travelers' Mem.); Textron's Mem. of Law in Supp. of Textron's Mot. Partial Summ. J. Against Travelers 7 n.4 (Textron's Mem.); see also Exs. 8, 9.[3]

         The insurance policies provide, in pertinent part, that "[Travelers] will pay on behalf of the insured all sums which the insured shall become legally obligated to pay as damages because of . . . Personal Injury . . . to which this insurance applies, caused by an occurrence." Exs. 8, 9 § 2.1. Section 2.2-entitled "Defense: Settlement, Supplementary Payments"-states that "[Travelers] shall have the right and duty to defend any suit against the insured within the United States of America . . . seeking damages on account of such personal injury . . . to which this policy applies, even if any of the allegations of the suit are groundless, false or fraudulent . . . ." Exs. 8, 9 § 2.2. However, the insurance policies provided to the Court-Exhibits 8 and 9-differ in regard to their respective definitions of "personal injury" and "occurrence."

         Exhibit 8-a policy that Travelers asserts is representative of the policies in effect from January 1, 1966 to January 1, 1972-defines "personal injury" as including, among other things, "bodily injury . . . ." Ex. 8 § 4.13. An "occurrence" is defined as "an accident, event or a continuous or repeated exposure to conditions which results, during the policy period, in personal injury or property damage . . . ." Id. § 4.12. In Section 2.3, Exhibit 8 further provides that "[t]he policy applies only to: Personal Injury . . . which occurs during the policy period anywhere in the world[.]" Id. § 2.3.

         On the other hand, Exhibit 9-a policy that Travelers asserts is representative of the policies in effect from January 1, 1973 to January 1, 1987-defines "personal injury" in a slightly different manner. In Exhibit 9, unlike in Exhibit 8, the definition of "occurrence" sheds its reference to a policy period limitation, a limitation that is included instead within the definition of "personal injury." Ex. 9 § 4.11 (defining an "occurrence" as "an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to conditions, which results in personal injury or property damage . . ."). A "personal injury" is defined as a "bodily injury . . . sustained by any person which occurs during the policy period." Id. § 4.12.

         Textron, facing approximately 140 asbestos-related personal injury lawsuits, turned to Travelers-as well as to the other named defendant insurance companies-for reimbursement of its defense costs and indemnity from liability. Randle Aff. ¶ 3; Jack Aff. ¶ 4. According to Textron, Travelers initially aided Textron in its defense against those lawsuits. Jack Aff. ¶ 18. However, in 2012, Travelers stopped reimbursing Textron for defense costs. Id. ¶ 19.

         Travelers denies that it has a duty to defend. According to Travelers, under both versions of the insurance policies-Exhibits 8 and 9-its duty to defend is not triggered unless the alleged asbestos-related personal injuries occurred during the policy period. In response to Travelers' refusal to defend and indemnify, Textron filed suit.[4] In Count I of its complaint, Textron "seeks a declaratory judgment that [Travelers and the other named defendant insurers] are obligated to defend and/or indemnify Textron . . . for past, present and future [bodily injury lawsuits] under each of the [p]olicies." Compl. ¶ 16.[5] On its motion for partial summary judgment, Textron seeks a declaration with respect to Travelers and whether Travelers alone has a duty to defend, leaving for another day the potential liability of the other defendants and the ultimate issue of indemnity.

         II

         Standard ...


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