The Seventh Circuit recently held that a cost-sharing agreement (“CSA”) between Hennessy Industries Inc. (“Hennessy”) and National Union Fire Insurance Co. (“National Union”) required the parties to arbitrate a dispute over attorneys’ fees stemming from asbestos-related personal injury claims. Hennessy and National Union entered into a CSA that set forth a framework to govern asbestos claims handling and payment in 2008. The CSA was governed by Illinois law and contained an agreement that the parties would submit disputes to arbitration, though arbitrators would not have jurisdiction to award punitive damages, fines, or penalties.
Despite the language of the CSA, Hennessy sued National Union in federal court, seeking penalties, attorneys’ fees, and costs as provided by Section 155 of Illinois’s insurance law. National Union moved to compel arbitration of that claim, but the district court denied the motion, finding that the Section 155 claim was not within the scope of the parties’ arbitration agreement. National Union appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which reversed the district court’s ruling. Judge Posner, writing for the court, held: (1) Section 155 “regulate[s] the business of insurance” and thus could not be preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act; and (2) Section 155 was within the scope of the arbitration agreement, and so it was arbitrable by its terms. Hennessy Industries, Inc. v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, No. 14-1277 (7th Cir. Oct. 28, 2014)