Ohio Derailment Expected to Pull in Insurers on Many Fronts
With Ohio courts already seeing dozens of chemical exposure suits from residents over the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern Railway train containing toxic materials, experts predict that myriad insurance policies will come into play in response to a variety of potential legal actions.
Lisa Campisi, an insurance recovery partner in Blank Rome LLP's New York office, told Law360 that Norfolk Southern's SIR limit could mean the company would be able to resolve lawsuits with limited involvement of its insurers. She pointed out that in some policies, such as representations and warranties policies, if a settlement is within a certain amount below the SIR, carriers sometimes do not require their consent to settle.
"Given the level of the retention here, there may be the possibility that it can reach settlements more quickly," she said.
Blank Rome's Campisi said that in addition to traditional general liability insurance, there is railroad protection liability coverage, which protects the railroad from liability and exposures due to work being performed by contractors and subcontractors. It is unclear from Norfolk Southern's filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission if it has such coverage, she said.
Campisi agreed, noting that people living near the site look to their homeowner's coverage for any damages. She also said local businesses could potentially need to recover losses from being unable to access their businesses due to the infiltration of chemicals from the derailment and related evacuation orders.
“Ohio Derailment Expected to Pull in Insurers on Many Fronts,” by Shane Dilworth was published in Law360 Insurance Authority on March 1, 2023.