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Medmarc Casualty Insurance Co. v. Avent America

August 31, 2009

MEDMARC CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF/COUNTERCLAIM DEFENDANT,
v.
AVENT AMERICA, INC., DEFENDANT/COUNTERCLAIM PLAINTIFF.
PHILIPS ELECTRONICS NORTH AMERICA CORPORATION (AS SUCCESSOR TO AVENT AMERICA, INC., THIRD PARTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, AND PENNSYLVANIA GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, THIRD PARTY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge United States District Court

Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case was initially brought by Medmarc Casualty Insurance Company ("Medmarc"), a casualty insurance carrier against its insured Avent America, Inc. ("Avent") and Avent's successor in interest, Philips Electronics North America Corporation ("Philips")(collectively, "Avent") seeking a declaratory judgment relating to several insurance contracts that it has no duty to defend. Avent has counterclaimed for breach of these insurance contracts and for a declaration that Medmarc has a duty to defend and indemnify it. Avent has also brought Third-Party Complaints against State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") and Pennsylvania General Insurance Company ("Penn General"), also for breach of contract and for declarations that these insurers also have a duty to defend and indemnify arising from other insurance contracts. The parties have each brought Motions seeking a Judgment on the Pleadings (Medmarc and Penn General) or Summary Judgment (Philips and State Farm).

I. BACKGROUND

Philips' predecessor Avent manufactured baby bottles and related accessories. It is a defendant in a series of class action lawsuits which have been transferred for coordinated pretrial proceedings to the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri in an MDL action. The class actions each involve the claim that the class members suffered economic loss as a result of Avent's use of an alleged toxic chemical Bisphenol A (2, 2bis(4-hydroxyphenly)-propane) ("BPA") in the manufacture of baby bottles and related accessories without advising the class of BPA's potential harmful effects. None of the underlying actions contain any allegations that the plaintiffs or their children sustained actual bodily injury of any kind. The absence of bodily injury allegations could be explained either because no one has of yet suffered any bodily injury or because the commonality requirements of Rule 23(a)(2) and Rule 23(b)(3) are difficult to meet. See Advisory Committee notes to Rule 23, p. 18, U.S.C.A. Rule 23, FED. R. CIV. PROC. Instead, the various classes are seeking combinations of disgorgement of profits, restitution, injunctive relief, and punitive or exemplary damages.

II. DISCUSSION

The parties appear to assume that Illinois law applies to these actions so the Court will proceed under that assumption. If the words of an insurance contract are clear and unambiguous, a court must give the words their plain, ordinary and popular meaning. Travelers Ins. Co. v. Eljer Mfg., Inc., 757 N.E.2d 481, 491 (2001). A policy holder of a general comprehensive liability policy is entitled to a defense against any actions that raise claims that are covered or potentially covered by the terms of the policy. The duty to defend is determined by comparing the allegations in the underlying complaint to the relevant provisions of the insurance policy. However, a general liability insurer need not defend any action that falls outside the coverage the policy provides, nor need it indemnify the insured under those circumstances as the duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify. Health Care Industry Liability Ins. Program v. Momence Meadows Nursing Center, Inc., 566 F.3d 689, 694 (7th Cir., 2009). The relevant inquiry is a determination of the nature of the underlying complaint, i.e., the type of relief that the claimant is seeking. Diamond State Ins. Co. v. Chester-Jensen Co., Inc., 611 N.E.2d 1083, 1087 (Ill.App. 1st Dist., 1993).

After stating these principles we now turn to the applicable provisions of the insurance policies in question. These policies include Medmarc Policy Numbers 0111370004, 021L30004, and 061L270004 for the periods 4/11/01-4/11/01, 4/1102-4/1103, and 4/1106-4/1107 respectively; Pennsylvania General Policy Numbers CPP1163377-00, CPP1163377-1, CPP1163377-2 and CPP1163377-3 for the periods 4/11/97-4/11/98, 4/1198/4/11/99, 4/11/99-4/11/00, and 4/11/00-4/11/01 respectively; and State Farm Policy Number 93-B7-4664-8 for the period 4/11/94-4/11/96.

Avent has conceded that the policies of all three insurance companies are essentially identical, so the Court will analyze the case based on Medmarc's policy language.

The applicable provisions of the Medmarc policy are as follows:

1. Insuring Agreement

a. We will pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of "bodily injury" or "property damage" included within the "products-completed operations hazard" to which this insurance applies. We will have the right and duty to defend the insured against any "suit" seeking those damages. However, we will have no duty to defend the insured against any "suit" seeking damages for "bodily injury" or "property damage" to which this insurance does not apply. We may, at our discretion, investigate any "occurrence" and settle any claim or "suit" that may result. But:

(1) The amount we will pay for damages is limited as described in LIMITS OF INSURANCE (Section III); and

(2) Our right and duty to defend end when we have used up the applicable limit of insurance in the payment of judgments or settlements.

No other obligation or liability to pay sums or perform acts or services is covered unless explicitly provided for under SUPPLEMENTARY PAYMENTS.

b. This insurance applies to "bodily injury" and "property damage" only if:

(1) The "bodily injury" or "property damage" is caused by an "occurrence" that takes place in the "coverage territory"; and

(2) The "bodily injury" or "property damage" occurs during the policy period.

% % %

2. ...


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