GILMORE, District Judge.
This is a declaratory judgment action brought by American States Insurance Co. (American States) against its insured, National Drum and Barrel Corp. (National Drum), and National Drum's other insurance carriers, who had issued policies of insurance effective for various periods between 1966 and 1981. The primary issue is which, if any, of the insurance carriers owes National Drum a duty to defend and/or indemnify it in four underlying lawsuits filed in Wayne and Oakland Counties.
For the following reasons, the Court holds that none of the party insurance carriers has a duty to defend or indemnify National Drum.
All of the party insurance companies provided general liability coverage to National Drum at various times from July 1966 through November 1981. The individual insurers were on the risk during the following periods:
During the years 1979, 1981 and 1982, National Drum was named as a defendant in four separate lawsuits. These lawsuits will be referred to as the following:
The plaintiffs in these suits alleged generally that National Drum was liable for personal injury and/or property damage arising out of the dumping of toxic waste materials on certain properties located in Michigan, commencing in 1966 and continuing until the time of the filing of the complaints.
Pursuant to a reservation of rights agreement, American States retained counsel to appear and defend National Drum in the four lawsuits. American States also
In this declaratory judgment action, plaintiff claims that all of the party insurance companies have a duty to defend National Drum because the plaintiffs in the four suits advanced theories which arguably fall within the coverage of each policy.
Under Michigan law
In applying this principle of insurance law to this case, it is necessary to scrutinize the theories of liability advanced in each complaint, as well as the relevant provisions of each insurance policy.
The four lawsuits were filed within three years after a "toxic substance emergency" was declared for the entire area surrounding the dump sites. The emergency action was taken in September 1979 following an extensive investigation by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) of the dump sites in question. Since the early and mid-1970's, the owners of the dump sites were under orders to clean them up and alleviate the ill effects from the toxic waste materials. Their failure to comply with the orders precipitated the DNR investigation in 1979.
The allegations against National Drum in the four complaints can be summarized as follows:
The policies issued by the four party insurers for various periods of time between 1970 and October 1981 contain substantially the same basic language with respect to the duty to defend and indemnify. The language reads as follows:
The policies also contain a pollution exclusion clause, which reads:
There are only two variations of these standard policy provisions. First, both Michigan Mutual and Maryland Casualty define "occurrence" in slightly different language. Rather than "occurrence" meaning an accident, including "injurious" exposure, "occurrence" means an accident, including "continuous or repeated" exposure. The second difference is that the Liberty Mutual policy in effect from 1966 until October 1, 1970 did not contain the pollution exclusion clause.
The Court must ascertain whether the allegations in the complaint even arguably state an "occurrence" within the meaning of the policy.
The term "occurrence" includes an "accident." Accident has often been defined by courts according to common usage. Black's Law Dictionary 14 (5th ed. 1979) defines accident as:
Liberty Mutual argues that, by virtue of the continuous, rather than sudden and unexpected, nature of the dumping activities alone, National Drum can be considered to have produced and disposed of toxic waste as a natural and usual part of its business, and thus could not be considered to have had an "occurrence" or "accident" within the meaning of the policy. It cites three cases in which the courts held that the emission of pollutants as a result of the natural process of the insured's business was not an "accident" covered by the insurance policy. American Casualty Co. v. Minnesota Farm Bureau Services Co., 270 F.2d 686 (8th Cir.1959); U.S. Fidelity and Guarantee Co. v. Briscoe, 205 Okl. 618, 239 P.2d 754 (1951); Clark v. London and Lancashire Indemnity Co. of America, 21 Wis.2d 268, 124 N.W.2d 29 (1963).
The allegations in all four complaints state that National Drum and other defendants were originators of toxic waste which was illegally dumped for a continuous period of time. The dumping is alleged to have begun in 1966 and the pollution and contamination resulting from the illegal dumping activities is alleged to likely continue
Given the continuous nature of the alleged dumping by National Drum, and the absence of any suggestion that it was accidental, the Court must conclude that there is not even arguably policy coverage for the damages caused by National Drum, as alleged in the Gustinis, Kozar, Triple G and Neal-Ormund Venture lawsuits. Accordingly, none of the party insurance companies has a duty to defend National Drum, or indemnify it for any award of damages or settlement costs assessed against it in the state court suits.
This holding is reinforced by recent case law on the scope and meaning of the pollution exclusion clause in liability insurance policies such as the policies issued to National Drum after 1970. In Lansco, Inc. v. Department of Environmental Protection, 138 N.J.Super. 275, 350 A.2d 520 (1975), the court interpreted the pollution exclusion clause to preclude coverage for damages caused by pollution, except where the "occurrence" causing the pollution is both "sudden and accidental," as those terms are commonly understood. The Lansco court imposed a duty to defend based on unique facts which are clearly distinguishable from those in the instant case. In Lansco, in an act of vandalism, an unknown person opened valves at the insured's business allowing gasoline to flow onto neighboring lands. Certainly this action can be said to be sudden and accidental as contrasted with the direct and allegedly continuous acts of National Drum in unlawfully disposing, or contracting to dispose, of toxic waste.
In Niagara County v. Utica Mutual Insurance Co., 439 N.Y.S.2d 538, 80 A.D.2d 415 (1981), an insurer of a defendant in the "Love Canal" litigation brought a declaratory judgment action to determine coverage under its policy which contained a pollution exclusion clause. The New York Court concluded that the policy behind the pollution exclusion clause was to prevent industries from seeking insurance coverage rather than stop polluting the environment. The court relied on 3 R. Long, The Law of Liability Insurance, App.-58 (1980), which stated the policy behind the pollution exclusion as follows:
Id. 439 N.Y.S.2d at 540.
As this quote suggests, the pollution exclusion clause was not intended to exclude coverage previously provided, but was intended to eliminate any doubt that may have existed concerning coverage for damages caused by the emission of pollutants as a regular or continuous part of the insured's business.
Based on the foregoing, the Court holds that none of the party insurers has a duty to defend and/or indemnify National Drum for damages it is alleged to have caused in the four underlying lawsuits. The policies of insurance in effect between 1966 and 1981 did not provide coverage for losses sustained as a result of non-accidental disposal of the insured's toxic waste. The allegations in the four complaints suggest that the release of toxic materials was continuous and not in any way sudden or accidental, and therefore do not even arguably