In tort litigation — asbestos bodily injury tort litigation in particular — corporations occasionally are served with (and become parties to) lawsuits in which the plaintiffs named the wrong entity as a defendant to the action. In those instances, does the wrongly named corporation's insurance company have a duty to defend the action? In a word, yes.

Let's consider the hypothetical company of "Smith Insulation, Inc." Surely a risk manager or claim handler can imagine instances in which Smith Insulation, Inc. is served with a complaint that names some variation of the company's name as a defendant, such as "Smith." That is not uncommon in asbestos litigation. Even if Smith Insulation, Inc. was wrongly named as a defendant — perhaps there was another company with a similar name, like Smith Insulators Corporation, that allegedly caused the injury or damage — Smith Insulation, Inc. should be defended by its insurer(s) nonetheless.

Standard form general liability insurance policies have a duty to defend policyholders, even if the claims against the policyholders are groundless, false, or fraudulent. When a complaint, if liberally construed, could be covered under a policy with a duty to defend, the insurance company "must come forward to defend the insured no matter how groundless, false or baseless the suit may be."

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