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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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