The idea for “Environmental Liability and Insurance Recovery” came to Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP attorneys Frank Deveau and David Guevara while waiting for another environmental-themed book they worked on to be published. In fact, the liability and recovery book, which came out in May, made it out a couple months before the other. Both were published by the American Bar Association.
That languishing book made them insistent that they could get the “Environmental Liability and Insurance Recovery” book out in one year. As editors, they could set the deadlines, hold authors accountable, and get the product to the publisher and printer on their timeline.
The two recognized the aggressive deadline, which they missed by only about six months.
Deveau and Guevara – who have worked with the ABA on other publishing projects – selected the authors to write chapters for this book. And they knew that Indiana has a wealth of knowledge in insurance coverage for environmental liability.
“Indiana has been a leader – right or wrong – in how the law has developed in the country” on insurance coverage for environmental matters, Deveau said. “We thought it’d be a great idea for a compilation of the law throughout the country on this topic.”
He noted that the firm has offices in Ohio, where the law is not as favorable as Indiana’s, and that state sees contaminated properties sit because there’s no insurance money for them. Indiana and states with laws favorable for insurance recovery are leading the country in terms of brownfield redevelopment, Deveau said.
Guevara said there really isn’t a book like “Environmental Liability and Insurance Recovery” that comprehensively addresses matters involving this area of practice. He hopes lawyers across the country will purchase it and use it as a reference.
Chapters include topics on Superfund liability, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and an insured’s response to environmental liability.
Deveau and Guevara asked attorneys in their office and lawyers around the country for suggestions as to whom should contribute to the book.
“We set our sights high regarding authors,” Guevara said. “We identified a set of what we considered preeminent environmental practitioners.”
Most of the attorneys contacted agreed to write for the book, including three Indianapolis attorneys – Tom O’Gara, of Taft; Ginny Peterson with Kightlinger & Gray LLP; and George Plews of Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP.
O’Gara wrote about common state statutory claims, such as illegal dumping and underground storage tanks. Plews’ chapter is on pollution exclusions in insurance policies, and Peterson wrote about the insurer’s response to an environmental liability claim.
Peterson broke out what she thought people would want to know about how insurance companies look at environmental matters and walks people through possible outcomes.
“I wanted people who may not typically practice in this area to also understand it,” she said.
With busy practices and family duties, the authors devoted certain times of the day or weekends to the project, they said. Peterson said she had to set aside a whole day or afternoon to write because it wasn’t something that you could work on for 15 minutes here or there. She estimated it took about four months for her to finish.
Plews said it took him just a couple of weeks to finish his chapter once he had time to focus on it. He’s very familiar with the pollution exclusion – he’s been practicing and litigating in that area for more than 20 years, he said.
The same time constraints for working on the book applied to Deveau and Guevara when it came to editing. Both spent late evenings and weekends working on the publication.
Because they were balancing the demands of their practice with the book, some authors needed to have their deadlines bumped back. Peterson asked for an extension and O’Gara said his needed moved a few times. With his fellow Taft attorneys as the editors, though, he knew exactly where everyone else was in the process and was able “to take advantage of that inside information,” he joked.
When asked why they would give up free time to work on a project like this, everyone said they did so because they learned something from it. The book allowed Peterson to combine her previous experience as a teacher and in the insurance industry with her legal experience. It also is a great tool for professional development.
“I learn from other people because those people have taken time, free of charge most of the time, to educate others,” she said. “I feel a need to do that. I like others to know I have this type of experience.”
“Quite frankly, it does become fun in the process,” Peterson said. “It makes you think about things outside of the case. I always learn in the process. I get as much from the process as I give.”
“I think whenever you sign up to do something like this, you learn something new about the law because it causes you to look at it in great detail and maybe in a fresh perspective because you’re not looking at it from one client’s perspective,” O’Gara said.
Plews was quite happy to contribute to the book his knowledge on the pollution exclusion, which he described as a key topic.
“It’s a very important issue that was really near and dear to my heart,” he said. “I was pleased to contribute to a book which has a lot of other good chapters and distinguished folks from around the country on various topics related to environmental cost recovery.”
He enjoys writing and likes the chance to write outside of briefs. Writing book chapters like this allows him to step back and ask why an issue or policy is the way it is, he said, without the writing being tied to one particular case.
Even though the book is focused on environmental issues and insurance recovery, Plews thinks that it would be helpful to attorneys who practice outside of the environmental area because of the insurance and cost-recovery information.
Deveau and Guevara have heard positive feedback on the book. Guevara said he’s had inquiries from insurance companies for copies of the book and from attorneys who weren’t involved in the project asking how to get copies.
This is the first book that Peterson has worked on and she’d consider contributing to another. If she did, however, she’d begin to work on it earlier.
“It’s always crunch time. That’s how attorneys are though, we work under deadlines.”•