Rivkin Radler Prevails on behalf of Allstate in New York Court of Appeals

November 30, 2014 | Appeals

Lead by Barry I. Levy, Evan Krinick, Alan Eagle and Henry Mascia, Rivkin Radler’s Litigation and Appeals Group successfully represented Allstate Insurance Company in the most recent challenge launched against the Company in New York in the lead paint coverage arena.  Rivkin Radler was retained solely for the Court of Appeals briefing and argument, and was able to successfully apply its considerable New York Court of Appeals experience in this important case. 

In its first decision since issuing the seminal opinion in 2005 in Hiraldo v. Allstate Insurance Company, the New York Court of Appeals ruled 4-2 on November 25, 2014 that Allstate’s interpretation of the non-cumulation provision in its policy was correct, and that the language limited the recovery to which plaintiffs were entitled.  Judge Smith, writing for the majority, concluded that despite the existence of multiple plaintiffs living in the insured premises during separate tenancies, that the non-cumulation language limited Allstate’s liability from all claims arising from lead paint exposure to a single policy limit “Here we interpret a nearly identical clause in a case where members of different families were successfully exposed to lead paint in the same apartment.  We hold that, here as in Hiraldo, the insurer’s maximum total liability is only one policy limit.”   The majority opinion squarely rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that the injuries they sustained for coverage limitation purposes should be considered losses separate and district from the injuries that the prior tenants had sustained in the premises, reasoning that all of the injured parties were exposed to the same general condition (i.e. lead paint) in the premises and the fact that the exposure of the injured parties may not have been to exactly the same conditions was not relevant in light of the policy language which defined as one accidental loss all exposure to the same “general” conditions:  “Perhaps they were not exposed to exactly the same conditions; but to say that the “general conditions” were not the same would deprive the word “general” of all meaning.” 

Levy, who had also represented Allstate in the Hiraldo case,  indicated that he was pleased that a majority of the Court had applied the core concepts established in Hiraldo and employed a common sense approach in applying the rationale from that decision to the facts of the present case:  “While many of the members of the Court had not been involved in deciding Hiraldo back in 2005, today’s decision clearly indicates that the Court is not prepared to depart from the cornerstone principles underlying Hiraldo and the law associated with the interpretation of unambiguous insurance clauses.” 

Krinick, Rivkin Radler’s managing partner, was quoted: “this is  just another example of the experience and depth that Rivkin Radler brings to the table within the insurance industry and in the appellate arena.”

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