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COA: Insurers have no duty to defend in environmental case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the decision by an Indiana court relying on Maryland law that granted summary judgment and defense costs to a business whose product led to perchlorate contamination in California and Indiana.

Perchlorate had been discovered in water samples in California and Peru, Ind., where Standard Fusee Corp. had facilities. The company makes highway and marine signal/safety flares, in which an essential ingredient is perchlorate. Standard Fusee notified its comprehensive general liability insurance carriers, including Chubb Custom Insurance Co. and GAN North American Insurance Co., about the claims at the facilities and sought defense and indemnification. Both insurers rejected their duty to defend and refused indemnification based on pollution exclusions.

The trial court, relying on Maryland law because that is where Standard Fusee is headquartered, ruled in favor of the company and awarded more than $2 million in defense costs. The judge held that the total pollution exclusion clause in the policies is not applicable to Standard Fusee’s liability for the release of the contaminate, thereby triggering the duty to defend and indemnify.

In Chubb Custom Insurance Company, et al. v. Standard Fusee Corporation, 49A02-1301-PL-91, the insurers claim that if the release of perchlorate is defined as traditional environmental pollution, Maryland law enforces the application of the pollution exclusion clause in the insurance contract and coverage is precluded.

Guided by the principles of Maryland’s contract interpretation, the Court of Appeals concluded that perchlorate is included within the usual, accepted meaning of “pollutant.” Judge Patricia Riley noted the continuous discharge of perchlorate over multiple years went beyond the routine commercial hazard of an occasional spill.

“Based on the facts before us, we conclude that Standard Fusee’s claim is based on a hazardous pollution contamination, resulting from the cumulative effect of numerous releases which occurred on an ongoing basis during the regular course of business over an extended period of time, up to the point where the pollution became concomitant to Standard Fusee’s regular business activity,” she wrote.

“We expect that, our decision notwithstanding, interpretation of the scope of pollution exclusion clauses likely will continue to be ardently litigated throughout state and federal courts. We are also aware that courts may arrive at divergent decisions from our own within the specific context of perchlorate contamination. Yet, guided by Maryland’s rules for interpreting insurance contracts, we conclude that the total pollution exclusion clause applies and relieves Appellants of their duty to defend and indemnify the Standard Fusee in the underlying action,” she wrote.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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