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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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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