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Patricia O'Connell
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Laura Foggan Comments on Closely Watched Environmental Decision by the Virginia Supreme Court

The Washington Times
April 26, 2012

Laura Foggan, chair of Wiley Rein's Insurance Appellate Group, was interviewed by The Washington Times following an unprecedented decision by the Virginia Supreme Court that involves companies' liability for global warming-related damages.  The first-in-the-nation decision could signal major consequences for energy companies.

Ms. Foggan filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of the Complex Insurance Claims Litigation Association (CICLA) and the American Insurance Association (AIA). 

The article reported that the Virginia ruling stems from an ongoing case in federal court involving the Alaskan island town of Kivalina, which accused U.S. energy companies of contributing to global warming, thereby making the town uninhabitable. In response, "one of the energy companies, Arlington-based AES Corp., was then sued in Virginia by its insurance carrier, which objected to having to defend the company and possibly pay damages associated with global warming as part of a policy covering accidents."

The Virginia Supreme Court agreed with CICLA and AIA, writing in the decision that "in this instance, the allegations of negligence do not support a claim of an accident."

Ms. Foggan told The Washington Times that the decision was an important precedent, making clear that general liability coverage should not respond to claims of liability for global warming.  "Decades of releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere just doesn't qualify as an accident," said Ms Foggan.