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Court rules in favor of insurer in environmental cleanup dispute

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A release executed between a chemical manufacturing business and its insurer that relieved the insurer from claims or demands related to remediation was unambiguous and covered all policies held by the company, not just the primary liability ones, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co. was the general liability insurer of Warsaw Chemical Company when Warsaw learned of environmental contamination. Warsaw sought reimbursement for the remediation pursuant to its primary and excess policies. The insurer denied coverage under primary and excess liability policies. In 1992, the two entered into the release in exchange for $25,000.

Fifteen years later, Warsaw sued, arguing that the release only covered primary liability polices and there should be coverage under the excess policies. The trial court ultimately entered judgment in favor of Warsaw for $417,953.

At issue in United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company v. Warsaw Chemical Company, Inc., 49A04-1203-CT-97, is the language in the 1992 release and the distinction between recitals – or “whereas” clauses – and operative language in contracts. The release stated that USF&G would be forever discharged “from any further claims … .” The Court of Appeals held under the binding precedent of Irwin’s Bank v. Fletcher, etc. Trust Co. Rec (1924) 195 Ind. 699, 145 N.E. 869, 146 N.E. 869, and Kerfoot v. Kessener (1949) 227 Ind. 58, 84 N.E.2d 190, the recitals referencing only the primary policies may not be used to interpret the unambiguous operative language releasing the insurer from any further claims.

The judges rejected Warsaw’s claim that those cases are no longer good law based on OEC-Diasonics Inc. v. Major, 674 N.E.2d 1312 (Ind. 1996).

“Recital language that arguably suggests that the release applied to only some of the insurance policies Warsaw had with USF&G does not trump this clear language. Because the Release covered the excess policies, the trial court erred in denying USF&G’s summary judgment motion on this point. We therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for entry of summary judgment in favor of USF&G,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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