ILNews

COA adopts 'site-specific' approach

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

For the first time, the Indiana Court of Appeals adopted a site-specific approach to rule on an insurance case with multiple policies in several states. The appellate court had been following a uniform-contract-interpretation approach when ruling on choice of law questions in contract actions.

Since 1978, the Court of Appeals has generally followed the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws (1971), when confronted with a choice of law issue. But in analyzing its approach of the uniform-contract-interpretation in National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, PA., et al. v. Standard Fusee Corp., No. 49A04-0811-CV-665, the judges decided the site-specific approach should be used.

National Union Fire and other insurers of Standard Fusee Corp. appealed partial summary judgment entered for SFC, declaring the insurers' duty to defend in environmental actions involving sites in California and Indiana. The trial court applied Indiana substantive law to interpret the insurance policies, instead of Maryland law, where SFC is headquartered and the insurance premiums were paid.

The appellate judges examined caselaw and the Restatement regarding choice of law issues to determine the site-specific approach should be followed in situations like the one in the instant case. The uniform-contract-interpretation approach says the law of a single forum governs the interpretation of coverage under a casualty insurance policy for multi-state claims arising from environmental damage in multiple jurisdictions. With that approach, the COA has held the state with the most sites is the principal location of the insured risk.

Under the site-specific approach, the courts would be inclined to treat a single policy insuring multiple sites as single policies insuring each individual risk, and if an issue arose at one site, the policy would be interpreted under the law of that state.

"To follow the uniform-contract-interpretation approach and apply the law of a single state to a dispute involving several states is to minimize the natural interests of the other states in the determination of the issues arising under the insurance contract," wrote Judge James Kirsch.

Following the uniform-contract-interpretation approach would be contrary to the general principles listed in Section 6 and the rationale behind Section 193 of the Restatement, he explained.

Since Indiana has the most significant relationship with the contamination, Indiana law should apply here; California law should apply to the California site, wrote Judge Kirsch. The COA remanded for the trial court to apply California law to any issues raised by the insurers that relate to that site.

The appellate court also affirmed the insurers had reasonable notice of the environmental proceedings in Indiana and California; the insurance policies' pollution exclusions are ambiguous and unenforceable under American States Ins. Co. v. Kiger, 662 N.E.2d 945 (Ind. 1996), and don't relieve their duty to defend; and that SFC's entry into Indiana's voluntary remediation program constitutes a suit for purposes of the insurance policies.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

ADVERTISEMENT