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Global Warming Brings Big Legal Expenses, Liability Questions For Insurers

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Arctic ice formed a natural sea wall that protected the barrier-reef of Kivalina, home to about 400 Inupiat Eskimos — until it thinned in recent years, and waves gulped at the shore, eroding the spit of land off Alaska’s northwestern shore and compelling residents to look elsewhere to live.

The Inupiat blame global warming and, more pointedly, in a federal lawsuit, energy companies that burn fossil fuel that they say contributed greenhouse gases warming the Earth.

The suit so far has been unsuccessful. Where it has succeeded, however, is in giving insurance lawyers a case study of an issue emerging as a major concern to property-casualty insurance companies and reinsurers, such as those in Hartford and Fairfield counties. Energy companies, air polluters and all manner of potentially responsible parties could be sued, and if they are, their liability insurer has an obligation to defend them.

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