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Appeals court rules on gas station's insurance coverage case

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Determining that an insurance company was obligated to defend and indemnify a Warsaw service station for contamination cleanup, the Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a Kosciusko Superior Court decision finding otherwise.

The case, Indiana Farm Insurance Company as subrogee of Joseph Koors d/b/a Koors Amoco v. Harleysville Insurance Company, involves an Amoco station in Warsaw owned by Joseph Koors, who in 1998 notified the Indiana Department of Environmental Management of his desire to remove the underground storage tank system at the service station. An environmental site assessment found some contamination, including water contamination, had occurred. Koors later demanded that its insurance carriers during that period, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance and Harleysville Insurance Company, defend and indemnify relating to IDEM’s actions, environmental testing and remediation. Harleysville in April 2009 notified Koors that it didn’t believe it had a duty to defend and indemnify him on the basis that any loss relating to the IDEM action came before its insurance coverage began in August 1998, that Koors had breached the policy by failing to notify Harleysville as soon as practicable that a loss had occurred, and that the pollution exclusion in the contract barred at least some of the coverage, if not all.

Farm Bureau filed a complaint for contribution from Harleysville in November 2009, and in August 2011 Kosciusko Superior Judge Duane Huffer granted summary judgment for Harleysville and against Farm Bureau.

On appeal, Farm Bureau contends that the “known loss” doctrine – first recognized by the Indiana Court of Appeals in 2000 – does not excuse Harleysville from its obligation to defend and indemnify Koors. The common law concept comes from the fundamental requirement in insurance law that the loss be fortuitous, and the appellate panel in this case found that Harleysville is not entitled to summary judgment on the basis that the known loss doctrine precludes coverage.

The appellate panel determined that the question of unreasonable delay in Koors notifying Harleysville about the loss is one for the jury to address, as is the question about prejudice in regard to the delay.

In analyzing whether gasoline can be considered a “pollutant” under Harleysville’s policies, the appellate panel relied on a decision from the Indiana Supreme Court in Am. States Ins. Co. v. Kiger, 662 N.E.2d 945, 947 (Ind. 1996). The language was similar to the policy language in that case, Judge Cale Bradford wrote, and so the court held that gasoline is not considered a “pollutant” under the Harleysville policy just as it wasn’t in Kiger. Harleysville is not entitled to summary judgment on the basis that the pollution exclusion applies to gasoline leaks.

The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this appellate opinion.

 

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  1. All the lawyers involved in this don't add up to a hill of beans; mostly yes-men punching their tickets for future advancement. REMF types. Window dressing. Who in this mess was a real hero? the whistleblower that let the public know about the torture, whom the US sent to Jail. John Kyriakou. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/us/ex-officer-for-cia-is-sentenced-in-leak-case.html?_r=0 Now, considering that Torture is Illegal, considering that during Vietnam a soldier was court-martialed and imprisoned for waterboarding, why has the whistleblower gone to jail but none of the torturers have been held to account? It's amazing that Uncle Sam's sunk lower than Vietnam. But that's where we're at. An even more unjust and pointless war conducted in an even more bogus manner. this from npr: "On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post ran a front-page photo of a U.S. soldier supervising the waterboarding of a captured North Vietnamese soldier. The caption said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk." The picture led to an Army investigation and, two months later, the court martial of the soldier." Today, the US itself has become lawless.

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