In Memoriam: Eugene Anderson (1927-2010)
Anyone who has ever had an insurance bad faith case owes a debt of gratitude to Eugene. The following is reposted from the New York Times. Hat tip to Karen Koehler.
Eugene Anderson, Lawyer and Innovator, Dies at 82
Published: August 2, 2010
Eugene R. Anderson, a leading New York trial lawyer who found innovative ways to make insurance companies cover costly asbestos and toxic-spill claims, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 82.
Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C.
In a message to the staff of Mr. Anderson’s firm, Anderson Kill & Olick, Robert M. Horkovich, the managing partner, said the cause of death was a rare form of double pneumonia. Mr. Anderson, who lived in Manhattan, died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Mr. Anderson grew up poor during the Great Depression, lived in foster homes and an orphanage and started working early to put himself through high school and college. He was eventually admitted to Harvard Law School, with the help of a lawyer who had stopped to give him a ride while Mr. Anderson was hitchhiking cross-country from the West Coast. He formed his law practice in 1969 after working as an assistant United States attorney.
In the 1970s, the discovery of toxic waste dumps in places like Love Canal in New York led to a proliferation of lawsuits by people sickened by exposure to dangerous substances. Much of the blame was placed on the companies that had caused the illnesses and injuries, but Mr. Anderson made his mark by focusing on the insurers that had sold those companies their business insurance policies, then avoided paying the large claims.
In his signature case, Mr. Anderson represented the Keene Corporation of Rockville Centre on Long Island as it faced millions of dollars of personal-injury claims from power plant workers who said they had been exposed, over many years, to asbestos in thermal insulation. Keene had taken on the problem when it acquired another company, Baldwin-Ehret-Hill, which sold insulation made with asbestos until 1972.
Keene had turned to three insurance companies for help. But because the workers’ illnesses had taken years to develop, each insurer denied responsibility and pointed fingers at the others. One said the problem belonged to the carrier whose name was on the policies when the workers were first exposed. Another said it belonged to the insurer bearing the risk when the plaintiffs first learned that they were ill. The third looked to the insurer standing behind the company when the first plaintiff demanded insurance relief.
Mr. Anderson’s solution looked a little like that of a parent breaking up a children’s dispute over who was to blame when a baseball broke a window. Each of the insurers, he argued, was correct in what it said about the others. A federal appellate court accepted his thinking, giving rise to the legal doctrine of the “triple trigger” for insurance coverage. Under the doctrine, a claim can be brought when the damage occurs, at the time it becomes apparent or when the plaintiff seeks redress, as long as a carrier insured the company at one of those times.
After insurers began thwarting corporate claimants by writing “pollution exclusions” into their liability policies, Mr. Anderson found a chink in their armor. In a case in which he represented the Central Illinois Public Service Company, he convinced an appellate court that the words “sudden and accidental” in a pollution exclusion were ambiguous. That forced the insurer, Allianz Underwriters Insurance Company, to help pay for a cleanup.
Mr. Anderson wrote a two-volume treatise, “Insurance Coverage Litigation.”
Eugene Robert Anderson was born on Oct. 24, 1927, in Portland, Ore., and as an orphan and foster child moved from place to place, often to farms.
He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, began thumbing his way across the country and wound up at Harvard with the help of the lawyer who had given him a ride.
After law school, he worked at the New York firm of Chadbourne & Parke, becoming a partner, but later left to work for Robert M. Morgenthau when Mr. Morgenthau was the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.
In 1986, Mr. Anderson married Mr. Morgenthau’s daughter, Jenny, who is executive director of the Fresh Air Fund. A previous marriage, to Hildegard Bleibreu, had ended in divorce.
Besides his wife, Mr. Anderson is survived by his son, Matthew, and three grandsons.