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Berkshire Hathaway Subsidiary Settles Insurance Dispute With Ford

Kiewit Tower, the location of Berkshire's corporate offices in Omaha, Nebraska

Kiewit Tower, the location of Berkshire’s corporate offices in Omaha, Nebraska

Kazan Law has just learned that in a surprise twist to asbestos litigation news we recently reported, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary has suddenly settled a major outstanding insurance claim. The unexpected settlement follows in the wake of a wave of negative publicity and lawsuits surrounding Berkshire Hathaway-owned companies’ alleged intentional delay in paying insurance claims including those to asbestos victims.

“Even (Warren) Buffet reacts to press coverage,” J. Robert Hunter, head of the Consumer Federation of America’s insurance division and former Texas insurance commissioner, was quoted as saying in a Scripps News update of its original coverage of the famous philanthropist’s apparent profiteering at the expense of victims waiting to be compensated for corporate wrongdoing.

Famous tycoon and philanthropist Warren Buffet heads the Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway. As the chairman, CEO and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, he is consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people.

Although the only settlement publicly announced at this time is with Ford Motor Co. for unpaid claims over rollover deaths, it can be hoped that resolution for mesothelioma-stricken victims of asbestos exposure will follow.

Scripps previously obtained sworn testimony from a former Berkshire claims executive who criticized Berkshire subsidiary National Indemnity and its claim-handling arm Resolute Management Inc. for reportedly delaying and denying claims to asbestos-caused cancer sufferers and others.

National Indemnity, according to Scripps’ coverage, agreed to take on tens of billions of dollars in “so-called long-tail insurance risk” from major insurers including Lloyds of London and American Insurance Group (AIG).

“The long-tail policies cover asbestos and other health hazards that might take years or decades to develop into illness or a covered claim,” the report states.

Berkshire was entitled to invest the money until it had to pay out a claim but sought, according to allegations, to extend its ‘float” of the funds to boost its bottom line instead of paying on claims, including those of asbestos victims.

Ford announced that it received two million more than it had asked for in its settlement, walking away with $22.1 million.  Representatives for National Indemnity disputed Ford’s claim but would not reveal any settlement figures. The case had been set for trial later this month in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

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