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Lawyers in Insurance Coverage Group Secure Summary Judgment in Complex Environmental Coverage Case

February 7, 2012

On February 2, 2012, lawyers in White and Williams’ Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith practice group scored a significant victory on behalf of their client, Century Indemnity Company (Century), when the Superior Court of Massachusetts granted summary judgment on behalf of Century with respect to a number of environmental waste sites set for a March 5, 2012 trial in OneBeacon America Insurance Co. v. Narragansett Electric Co.  The court agreed with Century that, under applicable law, (1) the insured’s claims for both defense and indemnity with respect to one of the sites were barred by the “sudden and accidental” pollution exclusion and (2) the insured’s claims with respect to three other sites were time-barred pursuant to Massachusetts’ six-year statute of limitations. 

The case involved the insured’s claims for coverage with respect to a number of former manufactured gas plant and waste disposal sites located in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  In connection with a series of summary judgment motions and cross-motions filed by the parties relative to several of the sites at issue in the multi-phased environmental coverage action, the court rejected the insured’s argument that, under Rhode Island law, the “sudden and accidental” exception to the policy’s pollution exclusion applied to preserve coverage in circumstances where the environmental contamination at issue resulted from hazardous substances being placed in a landfill.  The court agreed with Century that the intentional disposal of wastes at a landfill was not “accidental” within the meaning of the policy, and therefore the exception to the policy’s pollution exclusion did not apply. 

The court further held that the insured’s claims for defense and indemnity with respect to three additional sites were time-barred under Massachusetts’ six-year statute of limitations.  Of particular note, the court held that a formal disclaimer is not necessary, under Massachusetts law, to trigger the statute of limitations. 

Finally, the court held that the insured’s claims with respect to three other sites (which the insured conceded were not ripe for trial) were dismissed without prejudice conditioned upon the insured’s payment of the insurers’ costs and attorneys’ fees associated with their defense of those sites.

Guy Cellucci argued the motions on behalf of Century indemnity Company, with David Chaffin (of the firm’s Boston office), Tom Going, Craig O’Neill and John Lawson on the briefs. 

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