Commercial general liability policies typically provide coverage to insureds for losses resulting from property damage caused by an “occurrence,” usually defined in the policy as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same harmful conditions.” Specific product recall insurance policies and contamination policies also typically require that the insured’s loss be caused by accidental or unintentional contamination or impairment. In the context of product recalls, however, the exact cause of damage or contamination may be unknown. This creates uncertainty, and in turn, a coverage dispute over whether the cause of damage was indeed accidental, and thus a covered “occurrence” or “event” under the policy.

In a recent article for Food Safety Magazine, attorneys Syed Ahmad and Andrea DeField of Hunton & Williams LLP’s Insurance Coverage practice group analyze three recent cases involving coverage for retail industry insureds where the courts found the cause of loss to constitute an “occurrence,” triggering the policy’s coverage.