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A Wisconsin judge denied the claim of two insurance companies who had challenged their liability for $75 million of insurance coverage in a crane accident that killed three men working on the Milwaukee Brewers’ new ballpark. The case stemmed from a December 2000 jury verdict ordering Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America to pay $99.25 million in damages, $94 million of it punitives. Mitsubishi, the stadium roof subcontractor, was found liable for the collapse of the crane that killed the men on July 14, 1999, because supervisors improperly authorized its use during heavy winds. The case will now be heard by an appeals court. Wischer v. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America, No. 99-CV-6553 (Milwaukee Co., Wis., Cir. Ct.). The insurance companies, Federal Insurance Co., one of the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. and Travelers Indemnity Co. of Illinois, provided $50 million and $25 million, respectively, in insurance for the project, according to plaintiffs’ lawyer Robert Habush. During the trial, a Mitsubishi supervisor stated that he failed to make additional wind calculations in relation to the weight the crane carried, despite the manufacturer’s warning. In the insurance coverage suit, the insurance companies alleged that Mitsubishi committed intentional acts in harming the men, which are not covered by the companies’ policies. Through various settlements, Habush of Milwaukee’s Habush, Habush, Davis & Rottier has negotiated about $27 million so far from the defendants. If the insurance companies had prevailed in the Aug. 6 ruling, the plaintiffs only stood to gain an additional $10 million from Mitsubishi. Habush expects the case, with any appeals of the ruling on the insurance company’s liability, to be consolidated before the appellate court. “It will be interesting to see how the court deals with the insurance companies saying the conduct bordered on criminal and Mitsubishi saying there wasn’t any evidence for punitive damages.” Mark Rattan of Chicago’s Litchfield Cavo, who represented Travelers, did not return calls seeking comment. Edward Ruff of Chicago’s Pretzel & Stouffer represented Federal. He declined to comment on the case, except to say his client will seek an appeal.

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