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COA: Insurers have no duty to defend Cinergy

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today that the insurers of Cinergy, which was bought out by Duke Energy in 2006, have no duty to defend, indemnify, or otherwise provide coverage in connection with Cinergy's alleged liability for violations of the Clean Air Act at certain plants. The dispute over the insurers' obligations has been ongoing for years and previously litigated twice in the state's appellate courts.

The Indiana Supreme Court in Cinergy Corp. v. Associated Electric & Gas Insurance Services, Ltd., 865 N.E.2d 571 (Ind. 2007), (Cinergy I), determined the insurers in that case had no duty to defend or indemnify Cinergy in connection with the power company's alleged violations of the Clean Air Act based on the policies. The policy requirement that covered damages resulting from the happening of an occurrence doesn't mean that coverage extended to damages that result from the prevention of an occurrence, the high court ruled. In Cinergy Corp. v. St. Paul Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 873 N.E.2d 105 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), (Cinergy II), the Court of Appeals affirmed the entry of partial summary judgment for the insurers after concluding Cinergy failed to establish that there was a "potential occurrence" during the 1983-1984 policy term year at the Cayuga Plant. The COA concluded there was neither an actual or potential occurrence under the policy at issue as that term was interpreted in Cinergy I.

In the instant case, Cinergy Corp., Duke Energy Indiana Inc., and Duke Energy Ohio Inc. v. St. Paul Surplus Lines Insurance Co., et al., No. 32A04-0810-CV-622, St. Paul and other insurers moved for summary judgment seeking an order declaring they have no obligation to defend or indemnify Cinergy for any of the claims being adjudicated in an ongoing lawsuit filed in 1999 in federal court for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at six power plants. Cinergy wanted the issue of indemnity determination postponed until the federal litigation was resolved; the trial court denied that and ruled the insurers didn't have any obligation to Cinergy for these violations.

Relying on Cinergy I and Cinergy II, the Court of Appeals determined the relief demanded in the underlying federal litigation isn't covered under the insurers' policies. In May 2009, the District Court ordered three units at a Terre Haute facility shut down, ordered Duke to pay fines on another plant, and permanently surrender sulfur dioxide emission allowances in an amount equal to the amount of sulfur dioxide emissions from those three units during a specific time period.

The order included remedies designed to prevent future environmental harm, which aren't covered damages under the insurers' policies, per Cinergy I, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

"Because preventing future emissions and environmental harm is not an occurrence under the terms of the Insurers' policies, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that the Insurers have no obligation to defend, indemnify, or otherwise provide coverage to Cinergy for the claims being litigated in the underlying federal litigation concerning Cinergy's violations of the Clean Air Act," wrote Judge Mathias.

Penalties and attorneys' fees are also not covered by the insurance policies, as those issues were settled in Cinergy I and Cinergy II, he wrote. The Court of Appeals also determined the trial court didn't err in denying the postponement of the indemnity determination pending dispositive developments in the federal litigation. Cinergy didn't cite any Indiana authority requiring a court to postpone a coverage determination until after the underlying liability trial has finished.

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  2. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

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  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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