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The New Jersey Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Honeywell International will not be required to contribute to damages from asbestos claims relating to brake and clutch pads from a company it purchased after insurance companies ceased writing policies that would cover asbestos-related illnesses.
The court was divided 5-1, affirmed a trial court’s ruling that Honeywell had no responsibility for pre-1987 initial exposure claims.
“Under our current law on allocation of liability among insurers, an insured is not forced to assume responsibility in that allocation during the insurance coverage block for years in which insurance coverage is not reasonably available for purchase,” said Justice Jaynee LaVecchia for the majority, citing the high court’s precedent-setting 1994 ruling in Owens-Illinois v. United Insurance.
The majority said it did not believe there was any reason to depart from that precedent.
Bendix, which was subsumed by Honeywell in later years, continued to use asbestos in its brake- and clutch-pad products until 2001, LaVecchia said.
Two insurers, Travelers and St. Paul, urged the court to recognize an equitable “exceptional circumstance” rule to depart from Owens-Illinois, and said the “coverage block” should run until the 2001 end of production of those products. Honeywell contended it had not sought coverage for a claim stemming from any post-1987 initial asbestos exposure.