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New York Appellate Court Decides Liability of Waste Disposal Plant


The County of Columbia in New York established a solid waste disposal plant in the town of Claverack in 1981. To protect itself, the County procured comprehensive and general liability insurance policy. The insurers claimed in its advertising that it would pay all sums which the insured shall be legally obligated to pay as damages because of bodily injury or property damage. Every insurance policy excluded from coverage those bodily injuries and property damage sustained from pollution or arising from the discharge, dispersal, release or escape of waste materials, contaminants and pollutants on land, atmosphere and water unless the discharge was sudden and accidental.

In 1986, the solid waste disposal system was charged with violations of the Environmental Conservation Law for it was found that liquid waste was leaching onto the soil and seeping into the groundwater which was the source of drinking water for the town of Claverack. A fine was assessed against the Town of Claverack but the payment of the fine was suspended on condition that the Town close down the solid waste disposal facility. It was closed in December 1988.

A New York Injury Lawyer said however, the County however, continued using the facility despite the order of the Town to close the solid waste disposal plant. The Town of Claverack sued the County. A hunting club that owned the land next to the solid waste disposal plant also sued the County in January 1989 for impairment of the soil, air, ground and surface water. The hunting club also alleged that the County’s continued use of the facilities was a continuing nuisance, a continuing trespass and that its activities in using the plant has caused the eviction of the hunting club from its premises.

The County asked the Court to allow it to include as a third party defendant the insurance corporations who were obligated under the insurance policies issued by them to the County to reimburse and indemnify the County and to defend it in these actions for personal injury filed against it.

The insurance corporations refused to indemnify and defend the County. It also asked that the complaints against it be dismissed.

The court dismissed the complaint against the insurance corporations because the complaint for damages falls within the pollution exclusions. The County appealed this dismissal of its complaint against the insurance corporations.

The only question before the Supreme Court is whether or not the insurance corporations can be made liable to indemnify and defend the County in the cases for personal injury filed by the Town of Claverack and the hunting club against it.

A Suffolk County Personal Injury Lawyer said that on appeal, the County claims that the insurance corporation should be made to indemnify and defend it because of the advertisement it made promising to pay any and all sums to indemnify the County for damages it is required to pay.

The Supreme Court ruled that while it is true that the insurance companies have made the advertisement endorsements that promises to pay any and all sums, it also stated that it will not pay the sums if they arise from events that are not covered by the policy.

The Court ruled that the laws of the state of New York precisely excluded pollution from the coverage of all insurance policies issued in New York. The allegations contained in the complaint precisely claimed that the County willfully used the plant to treat waste after it had been closed. A Long Island Personal Injury Lawyer said the County’s operation of the plant caused pollutants to leach into the ground water. Clearly, damages for personal injury arising from pollution are not covered by insurance policies. More importantly, the complaints alleged that the County’s operation of the plant constituted continuing nuisance, continuing trespass and invasion. These offenses are clearly not covered by the personal endorsement.

The Court dismissed the complaint of the county against the insurance companies.

You need the assistance of a New York City Personal Injury Lawyer when filing a complaint for personal injury caused by the discharge of pollutants in the soil, water or air, or other premises liability issues. The legal services of an attorney are indispensable not only in presenting evidence but also in making sure that the person or corporation that caused the pollution has sufficient funds and property to pay damages. Contact Stephen Bilkis and Associates today for a free consultation.

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