ESAB Group, Incorporated v. Zurich Insurance PLC, No. 11-1243 (4th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
The issue before the Fourth Circuit concerned commercial arbitration of insurance disputes in foreign tribunals. Appellant-Cross-Appellee ESAB Group, Inc. contended that South Carolina law "reverse preempts" federal law (namely, a treaty and its implementing legislation) pursuant to the McCarran-Ferguson Act. ESAB Group faced numerous products liability suits arising from alleged personal injuries caused by exposure to welding consumables manufactured by ESAB Group or its predecessors. These suits presently were proceeding in numerous state and federal courts in the United States. ESAB Group requested that its insurers defend and indemnify it in these suits. Several, including Zurich Insurance, PLC (ZIP), refused coverage. As a result, ESAB Group brought suit against its insurers in South Carolina state court. The district court then found that ZIP had the requisite minimum contacts with the forum to permit the exercise of personal jurisdiction and that the exercise of jurisdiction over ZIP was otherwise reasonable. Because it had referred to arbitration all claims providing a basis for subject-matter jurisdiction, the district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims. ESAB Group timely appealed the district court's exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction. ZIP filed a cross-appeal, challenging the district court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction and its authority to remand the nonarbitrable claims to state court. Upon review, the Fourth Circuit affirmed as to the district court’s exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction, and found no error in the district court's order compelling arbitration. Likewise, the Court rejected ZIP's arguments that the district court erred in exercising personal jurisdiction over it and in remanding nonarbitrable claims to state court.