Court orders insurer to pay in Hoechst suit
SOMERVILLE, N.J. — A jury has ruled that North River Insurance Co. has to cover part of Hoechst Celanese Corp.'s settlement for supplying acetal resin used to make fittings for polybutylene pipe systems.
Lawyers representing Somerville-based Hoechst say the Sept. 26 verdict has broad implications for insurance coverage in product liability cases.
After widespread leaks in the plumbing systems led to lawsuits, resin suppliers Hoechst and Shell Oil Co. in late 1995 signed a $950 million class-action settlement, paying millions of homeowners. It was touted as the largest-ever U.S. property damage class-action settlement. DuPont Co. later joined the settlement.
Hoechst's share of the $950 million settlement was $400 million — but North River Insurance does not have to pay that full amount. Hoechst carried liability insurance from more than 15 different carriers. Several of them already have settled with Hoechst, and some agreed to abide by the ruling in the North River Insurance trial.
Hoechst and Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont manufactured acetal resin used in the fittings. Shell made the PB resin used to make the pipe itself. Hoechst's acetal resin is sold under the Celcon name.
The Washington law firm that represented Hoechst—Anderson, Kill & Olick LLP—announced the jury verdict Sept. 30.
Gary Kull, a lawyer representing North River, said the maximum North River could have to pay is $12 million, or the value of its three policies for Hoechst. Kull said the final amount will be decided at a damage phase of the trial, which has not been scheduled.
Hoechst has not decided yet whether to appeal, said Kull, of the Far Hills, N.J., firm of Carroll, McNulty and Kull.
The trial lasted eight weeks in Delaware Superior Court in Wilmington.
Hoechst sued North River, and a lower court first ruled that only those insurance policies in place when the pipe systems actually leaked had to pay. Hoechst appealed and last year the Delaware Supreme Court ruled in the resin company's favor, setting the stage for the jury verdict, according to the Hoechst lawyers.
North River Insurance is based in Morristown, N.J.
Phillips plant to boost key feedstock for PE
BARTLESVILLE, OKLA. — Phillips Petroleum Co. plans to reinforce its feedstock position by building a 200 million-pound-per-year hexene-1 plant at the company's chemical complex in Pasadena, Texas.
Hexene-1 is a key feedstock in high density polyethylene and linear low density PE. The plant will use Phillips' proprietary catalyst technology. The company claims its process can produce hexene with greater selectivity than other processes.
Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-1998 with completion in mid-1999. The cost of the project was not disclosed.
Phillips, based in Bartlesville, previously had announced its intentions to build a 110 million-pound-per-year hexene-1 plant through a joint venture in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.
Formosa group plans Taiwan industrial park
TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Formosa Plastics Group plans to develop an economic zone in Taiwan's southern county of Chiayi at a cost of as much as $17.5 billion.
The firm's proposed 23,800-acre industrial park would encompass a range of industries, such as automotive, steel and shipbuilding, industry sources said.
Earlier this month, the Taipei-based group's Nan Ya Plastics Corp. unit posted sales of $2.4 billion for the first nine months of the year, up 7.5 percent from the previous period. The firm did not release profit figures.