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Tonkon Torp Wins Complicated Civil Trial for Con-way

In arguably one of the biggest and most complicated civil trials in Portland in 2014, Tonkon Torp recently secured a complete jury trial victory for Con-way, a $5.5 billion American multinational freight transportation company with roots that began in Portland in 1929. At issue was the question of responsibility for some portion of defense and indemnity costs associated with three Superfund sites, including the Portland Harbor, and over 1500 asbestos lawsuits.

Con-way is the former owner of truck manufacturer Freightliner Corporation. Con-way sold Freightliner to Daimler-Benz in 1981. Thereafter, Daimler transferred Freightliner's historic operations, including its manufacturing plants on Swan Island, to a company that is now known as Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). DTNA is now potentially responsible for cleanup costs at three Superfund sites and is a defendant in over 1,500 asbestos lawsuits. In 2012, DTNA’s insurer, Allianz, filed a lawsuit in Multnomah County seeking contribution from Freightliner's historic insurers to help cover defense and indemnity costs associated with the Superfund matters and asbestos lawsuits.

Because Con-way and Freightliner had self-insured prior to 1981, they had “fronting policies” with three insurance companies who were named in the Allianz lawsuit. If those companies lost the suit, Con-way would be responsible for the defense and future indemnity costs allocated to the fronting carriers. Con-way intervened in the lawsuit, arguing that coverage was not available under its fronting insurance policies.   

A Tonkon Torp team led by Frank Weiss and Anna Sortun argued that the fronting policies, which Con-way obtained in the late 1970s, did not apply to the claims against DTNA. After deliberating for a week, the jury agreed with Con-way on all substantive issues.

Tonkon Torp was the only Portland firm that served as lead trial counsel for any party in the lawsuit. The hotly contested trial covered seven weeks.

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