Syllabus The plaintiff insurance companies had paid $1.15 billion in primary liability coverage to settle thousands of personal injury claims that had been brought against their insureds for injuries caused by asbestos exposure. Subsequently, the plaintiffs brought a breach of contract action, claiming that the defendant excess liability reinsurers improperly had refused to pay a portion of the settlement amount pursuant to the parties' reinsurance contracts or treaties. The reinsurance treaties obligated the defendants to pay for losses that exceeded a specified threshold amount if the losses were incurred under the plaintiffs' general liability policies by reason of "any one accident." The plaintiffs alleged that the asbestos claims, which all arose from the insureds' handling, distribution and sale of asbestos products, fell within the ambit of the common cause language in the treaties' definition of "any one accident," and that, therefore, the resulting losses should be aggregated for purposes of determining whether the threshold amount in the treaties had been exceeded. The defendants claimed that the plaintiffs' losses under the settlement agreement could not be aggregated under the common cause language of the treaties. Thereafter, the plaintiffs sought a judgment declaring that they were entitled to recover under the treaties for their losses related to the settlement. The defendants filed a counterclaim seeking a judgment declaring that the claims could not be aggravated as "any one accident" under the treaties, and moved for summary judgent. The trial court concluded that the use of the term "occurrence" as set forth in the definition of "any one accident" meant each claimant's initial exposure to asbestos and, therefore, the multiple asbestos claims did not constitute one accident and could not be aggregated because they did not occur at the same place and time. That court also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the asbestos claims should be aggregated as one accident because they shared a "probable common cause." The court concluded that in order to show that the occurrences were the common causes of the claims, the plaintiffs were required to show that the exposure of the multiple claimants to asbestos at a single place and time caused all the claims. The trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment for the defendants on the complaint and counterclaim, from which the plaintiffs appealed. Held:
Seth P. Waxman, pro hac vice, with whom were Jeffrey R. Babbin, Catherine M. A. Carroll, pro hac vice, and, on the brief, Jonathan M. Freiman, Kenneth D. Heath, Edward C. DuMont, pro hac vice, and Danielle Spinelli, pro hac vice, for the appellants (plaintiffs). Robert A. Knuti, with whom was James F. Sullivan, for the appellees (defendant London Market Insurance Companies et al.). William J. O'Sullivan filed a brief for the Reinsurance Association of America as amicus curiae.