An Ohio state court must decide whether Admiral Insurance Co. must provide coverage to a company whose clothing products allegedly caused cancer in firefighters and their spouses, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
Medina, Ohio-based Fire-Dex LLC, which is facing a series of lawsuits over the firefighter clothing it makes, asked Admiral to defend or indemnify it, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in Admiral Insurance Co. v. Fire-Dex LLC.
The ruling noted that the case is “a small part of a developing national story,” in which the plaintiffs allege that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, used in the manufacture of firefighting products, are linked to certain types of cancer.
Admiral denied Fire-Dex coverage, citing exclusions in its policy, primarily an occupational disease insurance rider. It then filed suit in US District Court in Cleveland seeking a declaratory judgment that it was not obligated to provide coverage.
The district court declined to exercise jurisdiction over Admiral̵7;s complaint and was affirmed by a three-judge court panel.
“Admiral’s suit would invade state jurisdiction (in this case, Ohio’s),” the ruling said.
The district court correctly held that “the Ohio courts have not yet addressed questions related to insurance liability for PFAS manufacturing” and that “those questions are best resolved by an Ohio court of first instance,” it said.
“States should be reminded that they are masters of their own law, subject to certain constitutional and statutory limitations,” the panel said in affirming the lower court.
Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.
Earlier this month, chemical makers Chemours Co., DuPont de Nemours Inc. and Corteva Inc. said they would set up a $1.19 billion fund to settle PFAS-related drinking water claims in the United States.