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COA notes Indiana law would have changed outcome of environmental dispute

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Using California law, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that an insurance company does not have to pay for an environmental cleanup, but the court noted it did not agree with the position of the Golden State and it would have ruled differently if Indiana law had been applicable.

The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Technicolor USA, Inc. and remanded with instructions to grant summary judgment in favor of Employers Surplus Lines Insurance Co.

Judge John Baker dissented.

At issue in Northern Assurance Co. of American, Successor in Interest to Certain Liabilities of Employers Surplus Lines Ins. Co. v. Thomson, Inc., k/n/a Technicolor, USA, Inc., Technicolor Inc/Technicolor Limited, 4904-1208-PL-400, was whether Indiana or California law applied.

Technicolor was seeking coverage for environmental cleanup at three sites, two of which were located in California. Its connection to Indiana comes through Thomson, Inc., a corporation with ties to Indiana that acquired Technicolor assets in 2000.

Eventually, the film company brought suit against ESLIC, claiming that under Indiana law some of the environmental spills happened during the time that ESLIC’s policies were in place.

ESLIC argued that California law should apply when interpreting its policies and that under California law there was no coverage.

In a previous environmental dispute, the COA issued a summary judgment in favor of the insurer. The appeals court ruled in Thomson Inc. v. Continental Cas. Co. 982 N.E.2d 4, 6 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), that under California law, the umbrella policy “damages” were limited to those that came from courtroom litigation and did not provide coverage for environmental contamination.

On the basis of the previous decision, the COA agreed with ESLIC. The court pointed out that most of the polluted sites are in California and all of the ESLIC policies were mailed to Technicolor’s California address.

Still the majority highlighted its opposition to the California law.

“We note here that we do not agree with the position California law takes on this matter,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote. “In fact, we agree with the arguments Technicolor made at oral argument that it is a waste of resources to require an insured to fight an administrative order in court in order to receive coverage under an insurance policy. Indeed, this court has formally come to this conclusion when applying Indiana law.”

In his dissent, Baker agrees with the majority to apply California law but disputes how the law is being interpreted. He argued that in light of the Golden State’s leadership on environmental issues and the opinions from its courts, California would likely apply its law to have insurance companies pay for cleanup.

“…I believe that if the California Supreme Court was presented with this case at this time, it would no longer permit ill-advised precedent from giving its environmental law the full and complete effect it was intended to have,” Baker wrote.
 

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  1. Bob Stochel was opposing counsel to me in several federal cases (including a jury trial before Judge Tinder) here in SDIN. He is a very competent defense and trial lawyer who knows federal civil procedure and consumer law quite well. Bob gave us a run for our money when he appeared on a case.

  2. Awesome, Brian! Very proud of you and proud to have you as a partner!

  3. Oh, the name calling was not name calling, it was merely social commentary making this point, which is on the minds of many, as an aside to the article's focus: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100111082327AAmlmMa Or, if you prefer a local angle, I give you exhibit A in that analysis of viva la difference: http://fox59.com/2015/03/16/moed-appears-on-house-floor-says-hes-not-resigning/

  4. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  5. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

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