ILNews

COA differs on why no insurer duty to defend

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A panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges agreed that two insurance companies are entitled to summary judgment, but the judges disagreed as to why the insurers owed no duty to defend.

In P.R. Mallory & Co. Inc., et al. v. American Casualty Co. of Reading, PA., et al., No. 54A01-0903-CV-142, P.R. Mallory and other companies affiliated with Radio Materials Corp. sued American Casualty Co. and Continental Casualty Co. in 2000 for breach of contract regarding the insurers' duty to defend relating to environmental contaminations caused by Radio Materials. Radio Materials operated a manufacturing plant of television parts in Attica in which it had two open, unlined pits from 1950 to the 1980s that contained various contaminants and other hazardous wastes.

CCC issued a commercial casualty policy to Radio Materials in 1981; ACC issued three commercial casualty policies for the years 1982-1984.

Beginning in the 1960s, Radio Materials became aware of contaminants from its site leaking and entering neighboring properties. It attempted to remove most of the contaminated soil in the 1990s. In March 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency entered a consent order for Radio Materials in which the agency found a release of hazardous waste into the environment and Radio Materials had to undertake all the actions required by the order.

The trial court granted ACC and CCC's motion for summary judgment based on late notice.

Judges Elaine Brown and L. Mark Bailey agreed with the trial court's reasoning for entering summary judgment for the insurers. The plaintiffs argued that Radio Materials' duty to provide notice didn't arise until the company subjectively became aware of the property damage happening during the 1980 to 1984 time period. But the designated evidence showed that beginning the 1960s, Radio Materials was aware of contamination seeping out to nearby properties. In the 1980s the company sent notice to Kraft Foods Corp., which through a merger had interest in Radio Materials' assets, regarding potential environmental pollution problems.

The plaintiffs had knowledge of an occurrence before they notified the insurers and the plaintiffs' delay in notifying ACC and CCC of the occurrence constituted unreasonably late notice, wrote Judge Brown. P.R. Mallory and the other companies failed to rebut the presumption of prejudice as a matter of law.

In his separate opinion in which he concurred in result, Judge Edward Najam wrote the case turned on whether there was an "occurrence" during the policy period, not whether Radio Materials satisfied the notice requirement. Radio Materials showed no evidence of property damage to non-owned property during the policy period of 1980 to 1984, so no occurrence took place that could suggest coverage, he wrote.

"In a coverage case, it is incumbent on the insured to present facts that indicate coverage," he wrote. "As we have held, where the facts alleged by an insured (and summary judgment nonmovant) reveal no circumstances that would indicate coverage, the insurer can 'not be held to have been required to defend' the insured from third-party actions."

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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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