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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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