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Insurers Must Pay State in Riverside Toxic Dump Litigation

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 10, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The state of California is enjoying a major win today this week in the California Supreme Court. On Thursday, the court ruled that policy holders from multiple insurers can collect separately from every insurer for damages that occur over a long period of time, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Supreme Court ruling ends a decades-long dispute between the state and insurance companies for a multi-million dollar payout to clean up the Stringfellow Acid Pits in Riverside County, reports The Associated Press.

The history behind the case begins in 1956, when the seventeen acre industrial waste dump was operated by the state. The groundwater supplies were left contaminated during the state's sixteen-year operation of the dump.

Cleanup costs were estimated at $700 million and some insurance claims were settled.

Seven insurance policies remained unsettled on policies issued between 1964 and 1976. The insurers argued that their liability was limited to a proportionate amount of the damage which occurred during their policies' coverage period.

The California Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the policies' language indicated that the policies covered "all sums" assessed. The drawn out length of the damages made it extremely difficult to assess any specific period over when the contamination took place.

The ruling is a huge victory for environmentalists as it now makes it easier to fund cleanup of hazardous waste sites.

The insurance companies could potentially pay upwards of $60 million to the state, pursuant to this ruling.

The Stringfellow Acid Pits are one of the nation's most notorious toxic dump sites and is an EPA Superfund site, according to The Associated Press.

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