Tuesday, October 25, 2011

1st Circuit: Insurance Policy "Antitrust Exclusion" Also Excludes False Advertising/Labeling Claim

The First Circuit recently held that an insurer was not required to defend and indemnify its insured against claims for misleading product labeling.

Accused of deceptive trade practices, false and misleading advertising, and deceptive labeling (the court did not specify whether these were federal and/or state claims), Welch Foods sought defense and indemnity from its insurer.

The policy at issue in Welch Foods v. National Union Fire Ins. Co., No. 10-2261 (1st Cir. Oct. 24, 2011) (per curiam), which otherwise covered the claims, contained the italicized exclusion below:

Antitrust Exclusion

The Insurer shall not be liable to make any payment for Loss in connection with a Claim made against the Insured . . . alleging, arising out of, based upon or attributable to, or in any way involving, either directly or indirectly, antitrust violations, price fixing, price discriminations, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices and/or monopolies, including any actions, proceedings, claims or investigations related thereto . . . . (emphasis added)

The terms “unfair competition” and “deceptive trade practices” were undefined.

The Court rejected Welch’s argument that, because the heading (“Antitrust Exclusion”) and several of the listed violations focused on anticompetitive antitrust-type behavior, the terms “unfair competition” and “deceptive trade practices” must also refer to antitrust-type behavior—not false advertising or false labeling.

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