Sometimes simple common law principles are the best way to litigate against insurance companies. Specifically, if the insurance policy calls for a two-year limitations period to sue, make sure your attorney alleges common law negligence against the insurance carrier if you want the benefit of the longer, three-year, statute of limitations period (assuming the facts support a negligence claim, of course).
New York's Oil Spill Act, Article 12 of the New York Navigation Law, assigns strict liability to any person who has discharged petroleum, for all cleanup and removal costs associated with the cleanup of the petroleum, as well as all direct and indirect damages, such as attorney's fees. N.Y. Navigation Law (1). A discharge of petroleum, sufficient to incur liability under the Oil Spill Act, includes any intentional or unintentional action or omission resulting in a release of petroleum into water, or into soil from which the petroleum could flow or drain to water. NL 172(8). New York generally interprets any and all spills of petroleum onto soil as falling within the jurisdiction of the Oil Spill Act, without any demonstration that the petroleum will actually find its way to the waters nominally protected by the Act.
Could fracking in North Dakota's Bakken shale formation have a direct impact on New York State? Yes, but the impact isn't limited to prices at the gas pump or home energy heating bills. Instead, the fracking operations are leading to a surge in freight trains hauling crude oil along the state's rail lines to a terminal at the port of Albany, New York. Shale formations such as the Bakken produce crude oil along with natural gas during fracking operations, and some claim that Bakken crude may "more dangerous to ship by rail than crude from other areas."
Does the destruction of plaintiff's technical data supporting disclosed oil spill investigation reports get a defendant off the hook? Apparently not, decided the Appellate Division (Third Dept.) in a November 2012 decision, rejecting a defense motion to reverse a plaintiff's trial verdict. Defendants had received the reports themselves, without the backup technical data, but had not requested any of the data for nearly a year after the commencement of litigation, well after a document retention policy caused destruction of the backup data.
Congress enacted the Superfund Act, whose formal name is the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA, in 1980 to promote the clean up (remediation) of properties, typically abandoned landfills or other sites, that had been contaminated by the disposal of hazardous materials. To further this goal, Congress cast a wide net and imposed strict liability for all "Potentially Responsible Parties" (PRPs) who contributed to the contamination at a site. See 42 USCS Sec. 9607(a).
James Periconi describes the kinds of environmental criminal charges that Attorney General Holder's investigation may result in, for example, release of pollutants dangerous to the environment (Clean Water Act), and the negligent if not knowing endangerment of the lives of the workers aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig that led to the deaths of 11 workers.
I'm speaking about the Gulf of Mexico oil crisis that began in late April, of course. Few environmental catastrophes have shocked the nation more than the huge, continuing, unremitting flow of many thousands of gallons per hour of oil for seemingly an interminable period, with no end in sight. The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew up more than a month ago now, spewing immeasurable quantities of oil into the Gulf. All efforts to contain it have failed. No longer out in the deep ocean, the spill has now reached Gulf beaches. The Louisiana state bird, the pelican, is found covered with crude.
On February 10, 2009, the Appellate Division, Third Department, upheld a jury award of $6,325,000 in penalties against three defendants - property owner, gas supplier and station operator - as being not excessive and well within the bounds of the Navigation Law, where the defendants failed to respond to a discharge at the site. State of New York v. LVF Realty Co., Inc., ___ N.Y.S.2d ___. Slip Op. 01103, February 10, 2009.
In a recent oil spill case under the Navigation Law, an intermediate state appeals court, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, Second Department overturned a $225,000 jury award of "stigma" damages (plus $61,600 fees award) to a private homeowner for devaluation of his property values - not for clean-up costs - due to contamination that leaked onto this Nassau County property from the neighboring property. Fusco v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 57 A.D.3d 939 (2d Dep't 2008).
Under New York Law, property damage is deemed to occur within the period of an occurrence-based policy, if injury-in-fact takes place during the policy period. See Continental Casualty Co. v. Rapid-American Corp., 177 A.D.2d 61 (App. Div., 1992). An insurer may only refuse to defend an action, however, where a comparison of the policy with the underlying complaint shows on its face that there is no potential for coverage. See Ruder & Finn, Inc. v. Seaboard Sur. Co., 52 N.Y.2d 663 (1981).