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COA splits on whether Dreaded decision requires judgment for insurer

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In a dispute over whether an insurer was required to pay pre-notice costs for environmental cleanup, the Indiana Court of Appeals was divided over whether the Indiana Supreme Court ruling Dreaded Inc. v. St. Paul Guardian Insurance was distinguishable from the instant case.

Maplehurst Farms sought to recover from Travelers Insurance Companies and other insurers environmental cleanup costs it incurred after an underground storage tank it installed on property it later sold to Dean Foods Co. leaked petroleum constituents in 2000. Maplehurst settled with Dean’s regarding costs in December 2002, but the company did not give notice to its insurers until March, April, and May 2003. When it learned of the environmental issues, Maplehurst tried to locate its insurance information but had difficulty doing so because so many people who had been with the company when it was still operating were now deceased.  

Travelers denied coverage of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management claim, citing among other things, lack of timely notice of claims and that Maplehurst had paid out money on claims to Dean’s without its consent. The trial court found Travelers breached its duty to defend under its policy and that the case was distinguished from Dreaded, 904 N.E.2d 1267 (Ind, 2009), because Travelers refused to defend Maplehurst once tender was made. In Dreaded, St. Paul Guardian Insurance agreed to defend Dreaded for the time after it received notice, but not prior to that.

The trial court’s ruling also noted that Dreaded determined that delayed tender may be “legally excused” in certain circumstances and that the ruling didn’t discuss or address indemnity costs.

In Travelers Insurance Companies, et al. v. Maplehurst Farms, Inc., et al., No. 49A04-1006-PL-394, Judges John Baker and Cale Bradford reversed, finding the lower court’s order directing Travelers to reimburse Maplehurst for the pre-notice, pre-tender costs is contrary to the fundamental holding in Dreaded that such costs cannot be recovered.

“Granted, when an insured is late in providing notice of a claim and the insurer responds by denying all coverage, prejudice to the insurer caused by the late notice is a potentially relevant consideration as to the insurer’s post-notice obligations. However, regardless of the relevance that prejudice plays in the context of post-notice obligations, an insured is not entitled to recover pre-notice costs. Simply put, an insurer’s duties under the policy do not arise unless and until the insurer has knowledge of the claim,” wrote Judge Baker.

Judge Melissa May dissented, declining to adopt the majority’s “apparent premise” that after Dreaded, reasonableness is no longer a permissible consideration in the analysis of late-notice disputes. This premise is inconsistent with Miller v. Dilts, 463 N.E.2d 257, 265-66 (Ind. 1984), and nothing relied on by the majority in Dreaded suggests that reasonableness must, should, or can be disregarded, she wrote.

The majority reversed and found Travelers’ to only be liable for the costs and expenses under the insurance policy that Maplehurst incurred after it gave notice of the claim. The judges also upheld the denial of Maplehurst’s requests for attorney fees.
 

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  1. The voices of the prophets are more on blogs than subway walls these days, Dawn. Here is the voice of one calling out in the wilderness ... against a corrupted judiciary ... that remains corrupt a decade and a half later ... due to, so sadly, the acquiescence of good judges unwilling to shake the forest ... for fear that is not faith .. http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/2013/09/prof-alan-dershowitz-on-indiana.html

  2. So I purchased a vehicle cash from the lot on West Washington in Feb 2017. Since then I found it the vehicle had been declared a total loss and had sat in a salvage yard due to fire. My title does not show any of that. I also have had to put thousands of dollars into repairs because it was not a solid vehicle like they stated. I need to find out how to contact the lawyers on this lawsuit.

  3. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  4. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  5. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

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