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Court affirms insurer must cover environmental cleanup costs

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed an order that an insurer pay post-notice costs of nearly $34,000 to its insured in an environmental cleanup in Mooresville.

Majestic made concrete blocks in Mooresville and installed a large underground storage tank and dispensing pumps to provide diesel fuel for its delivery vehicles. When it decided to remove the tank, a test in December 1997 revealed the samples were potentially contaminated. Majestic bought a commercial general liability policy from State Auto for one year that began Jan. 1, 1998. Majestic learned in mid-January that the site is contaminated. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management didn’t order a site investigation until 2006; Majestic filed its claim with State Auto in 2009 for coverage of the cleanup costs.

State Auto denied the claim based on the “known loss” and “late notice.” The trial court found the coverage under the policy was not barred by the known loss or voluntary payment provisions and coverage was for post-notice costs only. Majestic also got prejudgment interest on the $33,678.85 costs starting Oct. 11, 2011.

Majestic also received reimbursement of 91 percent of its reimbursable costs from IDEM’s Excess Liability Trust Fund, minus the ELTF’s $35,000 deductible.

In Meridian Mutual Insurance Company, n/k/a State Automobile Mutual Insurance Company v. Majestic Block & Supply, Inc., n/k/a Tutewiler Corporation, 49A05-1210-PL-533, the COA found Majestic did not have actual knowledge that a loss had occurred in order to prevent State Auto from covering some of the cleanup. When it purchased the policy, testing results had not been received. Nor is the recovery barred by the late notice doctrine, the judges held, citing Dreaded Inc. v. St. Paul Guardian Insurance Co., 904 N.E.2d 1267, 1273 (Ind. 2009). The order to pay only post-notice costs was appropriate as was prejudgment interest.

The COA also rejected State Auto’s claim that Majestic received a double recovery.

“We decline to reverse based on a characterization of the payments from the ELTF or Majestic’s responsibility for its deductible amount as pre-notice or post-notice. The ELTF is not an insurance contract pursuant to which the date of notice might be determinative of coverage. Rather, it was established to, among other things, provide ‘a source of money to satisfy liabilities incurred by owners and operators of underground petroleum storage tanks under IC 13-23-13-8 for corrective action,’” Judge Melissa May wrote. “State Auto cannot avoid coverage for the ELTF deductible amount by assigning ELTF funds to a period before its policy took effect.”

The judges declined to award attorney fees to Majestic.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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