A lawsuit was successfully removed to federal court this week which was filed by Morgan Lewis & Bockius on behalf of Port of Portland against Great American Assurance, Zurich American, and other insurers, which seeks to recover remediation costs incurred at the Portland Harbor Superfund Site.

This story was first surfaced on Law.com Radar.

The Port of Portland seeks recovery of costs from historic liability insurance companies that it has been legally obligated to pay in connection with the superfund site which is located in the lower Willamette River, according to the complaint. Over 20 years ago, the Port of Portland was identified by the federal government as a responsible party for the contamination and the costs sought in the suit are for remediation of decades of exposure to toxic chemicals at the site.

“In 1997, a joint study was carried out by The United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality,” stated the complaint. “The results of the study showed that river sediments in Portland Harbor are contaminated with toxic chemicals, including DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other pollutants.”

The EPA placed a 5.5 mile section of the Lower Willamette River on the National Priorities List in December 2000v to study the extent of the contamination, which was traced to historical activities including agricultural and urban development, U.S. involvement in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, ship scrapping, industrial activities, sewer overflows, and storm water discharges.

The Port alleged that the defendant insurers—which include American Guarantee, Argonaut, Arrowood, AXA, Factory Mutual, General Casualty, Great American Assurance, Great American E&S, and Zurich—issued insurance coverage that provides coverage to the port. Some of the policies dated back as far as 1924, according to the complaint.

The complaint, originally filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, asserted that the port’s liability for third-party damages arises out of an “accident” or an “occurrence” under the insurer defendant’s policies and that no exclusion bars coverage for the port’s liability for property damage at the superfund site.

The relief sought included a request for declarations that the port established its right to coverage under the policies, that the insurers whose policies include a duty to defend are required to defend the port against actions arising from the superfund site, and the insurers whose policies contain an obligation to reimburse are required to pay defense costs. And the complaint sought further declaration that the port’s defense, investigation, indemnity and settlement, are covered under defendants’ policies up to the policies’ respective limits of liability. Damages and attorney’s fees were also requested.

The case, Port of Portland v. American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Company et al., was assigned to Presiding Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Adrienne C. Nelson.

Counsel to the Port of Portland, L. Ansley St. Clair, Assistant General Counsel to the Port and Charles J. Malaret, of Morgan Lewis & Bockius, who filed the complaint, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Arrowood Indemnity Co. is represented in the matter by Nick Danzer of solo practice and Alexander Potente of Clyde & Co. Danzer declined to comment for this story and Potente could not be immediately reached for comment.

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