Lawyer Who Pioneered Liability Coverage for Companies Dies at 82

Eugene R. Anderson, 82, a lawyer who helped companies obtain coverage from insurers to pay for liabilities from asbestos contamination and environmental cleanups, died Friday of complications from pneumonia.

Mr. Anderson founded the law firm Anderson Kill & Olick. His legal efforts in the late 1970s broke ground in insurance-coverage litigation.

One landmark case came in the early 1980s, when insulation manufacturer Keene Corp. was facing mounting liabilities on personal-injury claims from workers who had been exposed to asbestos in their products. Keene’s insurers—there were three of them—each said the others were responsible for the costs of the claims.

Mr. Anderson, a one-time U.S. prosecutor, convinced the Court of Appeals that, in fact, all three were responsible. The ruling established the idea that a claim can be triggered when the damage first occurs, at the time it becomes apparent, or at the time when the first plaintiff files a claim against the insured company.

The victory brought a wave of new business from corporations facing major liabilities stemming from asbestos and environmental claims in the wake of Superfund legislation.

Born in 1927 in Portland, Ore., and the son of a single mother who was frequently disabled, he grew up partly in foster homes and orphanages. He put himself through the University of California, Los Angeles. Upon graduation, he began hitchhiking across the country. One person who gave him a ride was a lawyer who would later help him get into Harvard Law School.

After becoming a partner at Chadbourne & Parke, he went to the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, where he worked for Robert M. Morgenthau, who would later become Manhattan District Attorney. Mr. Anderson married Mr. Morgenthau’s daughter, Jenny.

Mr. Anderson’s office was decorated with a moose head his brother carved with a chainsaw, and instead of his law degree, he hung his kindergarten certificate on the wall alongside plaques from pro bono clients.

These “all demonstrated that he could care less about social trappings,” said Anderson Kill managing partner Robert Horkovich in an email to friends and colleagues. “He enjoyed defying them.”