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Judges split on whether 2 insurers must pay for damage

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An Indiana Court of Appeals judge dissented from the majority’s holding that two insurers were financially responsible for the damages caused by a fractured storm pipe and subsequent flooding of a school. The judge believed that only one of the responsible party’s insurers had to pay for the property damage.

In Grange Mutual Casualty, et al. v. West Bend Mutual Ins., et al. No. 29A02-1008-PL-965, the two insurers disputed which policy was triggered after a school in which insured McCurdy Mechanical installed plumping, sewers, and drains was flooded due to a fractured storm drain pipe. At the time McCurdy performed the work on the school, it had a commercial general liability policy with West Bend Mutual Insurance. When the damaged pipe burst and caused the flooding in the school, Grange Mutual Casualty provided McCurdy’s CGL insurance. It was later discovered that the pipe was fractured by McCurdy sometime around spring of 2005, when West Bend's policy was active.

The two insurers jointly settled with the school’s insurance company for damages from the flood and then filed competing motions for summary judgment as to which insurer was responsible. The trial court denied Grange’s motion for summary judgment and granted West Bend’s motion for summary judgment.

The majority found that the parties incorrectly focused on the timing of the occurrences in the case and that they aren’t really relevant to the determination of coverage based on the insurance policies, which are very similar. What’s important is the timing of the property damage because the policies require that the damage occur during the policy period, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander.

The majority held that in this case, it’s not an “either-or determination.” West Bend’s coverage was triggered by the original fracturing of the storm drain pipe which resulted in immediate damage to the pipe and subsequent flooding. They held that the policy covers all damages that flowed from the original damage, including the extensive flood damage. But Grange is also responsible for some damages, they held. Coverage under the Grange policy was triggered when the flooding occurred during its policy period, regardless of when the original negligence took place, wrote the judge. The majority remanded for the trial court to apportion damages accordingly.

Judge Melissa May agreed with the majority that West Bend’s policy covers all damages that flowed from the original damage, but disagreed that Grange’s policy also covers the flood damage at issue.

“There is nothing to ‘apportion.’ The majority is correct that the West Bend policy covers ‘all damages,’ and I would accordingly decline to hold there could be damages in addition to ‘all damages’ or that any such additional damages could be assigned on remand to Grange,” she wrote. “I believe ‘all’ means ‘all,’ and I would accordingly reverse and direct summary judgment for Grange.”

Judge May cited Parr v. Gonzalez, 669 N.W.2d 401 (Minn. Ct. App. 2003), to support her conclusion that the Grange policy isn’t implicated. Parr held that when damages arise from “discrete and identifiable events that occur within the policy period, the actual-injury trigger theory allows those policies on the risk at the point of initial damage to pay for all the damages that follow.”

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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