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Doerr v. Mobil Oil Corp.

Supreme Court of Louisiana

December 19, 2000, Decided

No. 00-CC-0947

Opinion

  [*122]  [Pg 1]

CALOGERO, Chief Justice

This class action lawsuit arises out of a discharge of hydrocarbons from a Mobil Oil refinery in Chalmette, Louisiana into the Mississippi River in January of 1998. Following the discharge, the hydrocarbons were allegedly drawn into the St. Bernard Parish water system and then distributed to users throughout the parish. The plaintiffs seek compensation from St. Bernard Parish and its insurer, Genesis Insurance Company, among others, for personal injuries allegedly suffered following the consumption and/or use of the allegedly contaminated water. The trial court denied a motion for summary judgment filed by Genesis based upon a total pollution exclusion endorsement in the policy. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal thereafter reversed and dismissed the claim against Genesis based on the interpretation of that exclusion by this court in [**2]  its decision in Ducote v. Koch Pipeline Co., 98-0942 (La. 1/20/99), 730 So. 2d 432. We granted the writ application of St. Bernard Parish to reexamine our holding in Ducote and to consider its contention that the insurance policy issued by Genesis Insurance covers its potential liability exposure in this case.

Facts

The plaintiffs allege that from January 7, 1998 to January 11, 1998, the Mobil Oil Chalmette refinery, which was owned and operated by Mobil Oil Corporation and Chalmette Refining, L.L.C., "experienced discharge(s), spill(s), upset(s) and/or [Pg 2] emission(s) of various substances, hazardous and nonhazardous, as a result of overflow or runoff of the contents of its waste water facility" into the Mississippi River. These "substances," it is alleged, were drawn into the St. Bernard Parish water system and, in turn, distributed to at least 6,000 persons within the homes and businesses of St. Bernard Parish.

Although the parties dispute the date that Genesis first began insuring the St. Bernard Parish government, the policy at issue was a commercial general liability insurance policy ("CGL policy") issued by Genesis Insurance Company to St.  [**3]  Bernard Parish that was effective from February 1, 1996 to February 1, 1999. Under the terms of the policy, St. Bernard Parish was self-insured against claims of up to $ 250,000 and Genesis provided coverage for the next $ 1,000,000 of liability, per occurrence, for bodily injury or property damage caused by St. Bernard Parish. Additionally, the policy contained an endorsement entitled "Total Pollution Exclusion Endorsement," which provided in its entirety:

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774 So. 2d 119 *; 2000 La. LEXIS 3609 **; 00-0947 (La. 12/19/00);

PHYLLIS KAY ROBY DOERR, ET AL. VERSUS MOBIL OIL CORPORATION, ET AL.

Prior History:  [**1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, FOURTH CIRCUIT, PARISH OF ST. BERNARD.

Disposition: REVERSED; MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT DENIED; REMANDED TO DISTRICT COURT.

CORE TERMS

pollution exclusion, pollution, insured, coverage, contaminants, courts, dispersal, parties, risks, exclude coverage, environmental, damages, cases, insurance policy, summary judgment, ambiguous, accidental, chemicals, Pipeline, policies, summary judgment motion, insurance company, liability policy, unambiguous, constante, district court, irritants, factors, vacated, personal injury

Business & Corporate Compliance, Contracts Law, Types of Contracts, Aleatory Contracts, Insurance Law, Claim, Contract & Practice Issues, Policy Interpretation, General Overview, Commercial General Liability Insurance, Exclusions, Pollution, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, Ambiguities & Contra Proferentem, Technical Constructions & Meanings, Defenses, Ambiguities & Mistakes, Ambiguous Terms, Unambiguous Terms, Parol Evidence, Extrinsic Evidence, Construction Against Insurers, Exclusions, Business Insurance, Governments, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Justiciability, Coverage, Environmental Claims, Fortuity Doctrine, Intentional Acts, Insurance Company Operations, Policy Forms Regulation, Standard Forms & Provisions, Regulators, State Insurance Commissioners & Departments, Approval of Forms, Constitutional Law, The Judiciary, Jurisdiction, Pollution, Torts, Business Torts, Intentional Discharges, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Genuine Disputes, Materiality of Facts, Burdens of Proof, Movant Persuasion & Proof, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Judgments, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review