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Insurance Companies Seek Dismissal in NY Appellate Court for Industrial Waste Allegations


A woman in Puerto Rico sued a Delaware corporation that manufactures blood analyzing machines. The complaint alleged that the Delaware Corporation had a manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico. The complaint alleged that the manufacturing plant continually discharged toxins from 1971 until 1981 into a creek that flowed into another creek that caused pollution and contamination of the soil, water and air in the neighborhood where the Puerto Rican woman lived and caused her sickness.

A New York Injury Lawyer said in its Answer, the Delaware Corporation admitted that it had intentionally discharged industrial wastes which flowed into the creek in 1979 but that after that, it began transporting its industrial wastes for disposal at a waste treatment facility. It also forwarded the defense that its intentional discharge of its industrial waste was not prohibited by its existing permits at that time.

In that personal injury case filed in the US territory of Puerto Rico, the Delaware Corporation asked the Superior Court to include as third party defendants around fifteen insurance corporations which had issued general and comprehensive insurance to the Delaware Corporation. The Delaware Corporation demanded that these fifteen insurance corporations indemnify it under the terms of its insurance policies and also provide the Delaware Corporation with defenses to protect itself against the personal injury suit filed by the Puerto Rican woman.

These fifteen insurance companies refused to indemnify the Delaware Corporation and refused to furnish it with a defense to protect itself against the personal injury suit filed by the Puerto Rican woman for diseases she contracted as a result of the intentional discharge by the Delaware Corporation of toxic industrial wastes into their drinking water and soil.

A Westchester County Personal Injury Lawyer said the Delaware Corporation now brought suit against the fifteen insurance corporations in the State of New York to compel them to indemnify the Delaware Corporation for all monies it will be required to pay the Puerto Rican woman as damages. It also filed this suit to compel them to furnish the Delaware Corporation with defenses in law as provided for in their insurance policies.

The only defenses of the fifteen corporations to support their refusal to indemnify and defend the Delaware Corporation were: that the Delaware Corporation’s discharge of toxic waste was not sudden and accidental; and that at the time that the Delaware Corporation discharged the toxic waste in 1979, all insurance policies were read to include the “pollution exclusion” clause that prohibited insurance corporations from indemnifying insured corporations for pollutions it had caused.

The fifteen insurance corporations filed a motion for summary judgment asking the dismissal of the complaint of the Delaware Corporation against them, alleging that there are no more issues of fact that need to be tried.

The only question before the Supreme Court is whether or not the fifteen insurance corporations are entitled to a dismissal of this complaint against them.

The Supreme Court of New York ruled that the word “sudden” should be given its common and ordinary meaning, that is, that events occurred without previous notice or with only brief notice. It also ruled that the word ‘accidental’ meant that the event insured against were unintended and unexpected. A Staten Island Personal Injury Lawyer said that for the fifteen insurance corporations to be made liable to indemnify the Delaware Corporation, the discharge of toxic waste for which it was being sued in Puerto Rico had to have been both sudden and accidental, that is, that the discharge of toxins was unintended and unexpected and that they happened without previous notice.

Looking at both the complaint for personal injury filed by the Puerto Rican woman as well as the certified answer filed by the Delaware Corporation, it was obvious that the discharge of toxins was intentional, deliberate, and it occurred in the regular course of business of the Delaware Corporation over a long period of time.

The Supreme Court of New York granted the motions for summary judgment filed by the fifteen insurance corporations. This complaint filed by the Delaware Corporation is dismissed.

When filing a personal injury case, whether a premises liability action, or medical malpractice case, an attorney needs not only to present facts comprehensively. A lawyer also needs to investigate if the person who caused the injury has the financial capacity to pay the damages claimed against him. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates for advice and a free consultation.

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