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Tobacco Liabilities Contemplated Abroad

While the issue of tobacco liability in the United States remains at a standstill-with questions still bubbling as to whether and to what extent tobacco will reach a settlement over how much it will pay for those who died because of smoking-related illness and insurers wondering how much they'll be on the hook for-Lloyd's of London apparently remains confident that it will face little or no losses.

According to a report in "Inside Eye," a monthly newsletter based in London, a spokesman for Lloyd's has stated flatly that Equitas, the runoff company set up by Lloyd's to deal with past losses under the market's Reconstruction & Renewal Plan, has no exposure in the U.S. or in Britain. Nick Doak, a press officer at Lloyd's said that no cover was provided after the original Surgeon's report decades ago and exclusions have been written back into policies. "The consensus is that there is little or no problem," he is quoted as saying.

Nevertheless, "Inside Eye" reports that British-based BAT Industries is a little more than concerned as are BAT insurers and reinsurers. BAT owns Brown & Williamson, so some fear that allegations that the company knew many years ago that smoking tobacco was addictive and caused damage to health will bring old problems home to roost.

The newsletter says that BAT is not talking to reporters on the subject. It adds that a spokeswoman for the company said they were afraid if they mention the existence of their product liability cover or the terms and conditions, policies would become void, much the same as similar clauses of kidnap and ransom insurance.

Which side is correct is anybody's guess. However, because of the vagaries of U.S. courts, insurers who wrote policies years ago on certain liability risks such as asbestos found themselves unexpectedly behind the eight ball. (National Insurance News Service)


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