Wisconsin Supreme Court
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will decide what types of restrictions an insurance company can place on its duty to defend and indemnify an insured in asbestos litigation. Plenco, a family-owned plastics company located in Sheboygan, WI, has been named as a defendant in hundreds of asbestos lawsuits over the last 20 years for alleged exposure to Plenco products that occurred between 1950 and 1983. From 1968 through 1989, Plenco was insured (general liability and umbrella) with Liberty Mutual. Until 2004, Liberty Mutual dutifully responded to all lawsuits filed against Plenco. In 2004, Liberty Mutual instituted a new coverage policy that drastically reduced Plenco's coverage from over $70 million (the entire insured period) to about $10 million. Plenco challenged Liberty Mutual's new policy in federal court.
Status: DECIDED. Amicus brief filed in support of Plenco on 06/24/08. On January 29, 2009, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided a certified question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that each claimant’s exposure was one occurrence, Wisc. Stat. § 631.43(1) does not apply to successive insurance policies, and Liberty Mutual must defend and pay up to the policy limits.