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Great Northern Insurance Co. v. Greenwich Insurance Co.

May 12, 2008

GREAT NORTHERN INSURANCE COMPANY AND FEDERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GREENWICH INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Introduction

Pending before the court is a motion for reconsideration filed by plaintiffs Great Northern Insurance Company ("Great Northern") and Federal Insurance Company ("Federal" and, together with Great Northern, "plaintiffs"). (Doc. No. 53.) In a memorandum opinion dated August 24, 2007 (the "prior opinion"), the court granted partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs and partial summary judgment in favor of defendant Greenwich Insurance Company ("Greenwich" or "defendant"). (Prior Op. (Doc. No. 51).) Plaintiffs ask the court to reconsider the portion of the prior opinion granting partial summary judgment in favor of Greenwich. The court heard oral arguments with respect to this motion on October 25, 2007. (Tr. of Oral Argument (Doc. No. 60).) By reason of there being genuine issues of material fact regarding the issue of illusory coverage, plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration will be granted, and the portion of the prior opinion limiting Greenwich's potential liability for equitable contribution to $100,000.00 will be vacated.

Standard of Review

A motion for reconsideration is granted only if one of three situations is shown: "(1) an intervening change in controlling law, (2) the availability of new evidence not previously available, or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice." Reich v. Compton, 834 F.Supp. 753, 755 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (citing Dodge v. Susquehanna Univ., 796 F. Supp. 829, 830 (M.D. Pa. 1992)).

Because of the interest in finality, at least at the district court level, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly; the parties are not free to relitigate issues the court has already decided. . . . Stated another way, a motion for reconsideration is not properly grounded in a request for a district court to rethink a decision it has already made, rightly or wrongly. . . .

Williams v. Pittsburgh, 32 F.Supp.2d 236, 238 (W.D. Pa. 1998) (internal citations omitted).

Discussion

In the prior opinion, the court granted partial summary judgment to plaintiffs and partial summary judgment to defendant. (Prior Op. (Doc. No. 51).) Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration concerns the court's determination that the $1,000,000.00 in coverage provided under the Greenwich Policy*fn1 for the blowout at the Ronco Well was not rendered "illusory" by the $100,000.00 sublimit applicable to property damage under another endorsement because the Hostile Fire Exception to the Pollution Exclusion extended coverage for both bodily injury and property damage. (Prior Op. (Doc. No. 51) at 31-33.) After a thorough review of the Greenwich Policy, the court is convinced that genuine issues of material fact exist regarding this matter and therefore its prior conclusion was erroneous.

The language of the Greenwich Policy containing the Pollution Exclusion and the Hostile Fire Exception provided:

This insurance does not apply: ***

(f)(1) to bodily injury or property damage which would not have occurred in whole or part but for the actual, alleged or threatened discharge, dispersal, seepage, migration, release or escape of pollutants at any time; *** pollutants means any solid, liquid, gaseous, or thermal irritant or contaminant including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acid, alkalis, chemicals and waste; waste includes material to be recycled, reconditioned or reclaimed; subparagraph f.(1) of this exclusion does not apply to bodily injury or property damage caused by heat, smoke or fumes from a hostile fire; as used in this exclusion, a hostile fire means one which becomes uncontrollable or breaks out from where it was intended to be; *** (Def.'s Ex. 4 (Doc. No. 35-5) at 8-9.) The court determined that the fire at issue in this case was a "hostile fire" as defined by the Greenwich Policy, and that the property damage at issue was "caused by heat, smoke or fumes" from that hostile fire. (Prior Op. (Doc. No. 51) at 17-27.) Those conclusions are not at issue at this time.

The court determined in the prior opinion that any liability on the part of Greenwich for equitable contribution would be limited to $100,000.00 by reason of the Pollution Hazard Incidents Exclusion. Id. at 27-35. It is this portion of the prior opinion that is presently at issue. The relevant portions of the Greenwich Policy provided:

. . . pollution hazard incident, symbol "z", means an incident of property damage only, arising out of the sudden and accidental discharge, dispersal, release or escape of natural gas, oil or other petroleum substances or derivatives (including any oil refuse or oil mixed with wastes), well drilling or servicing chemicals or saline substance into or upon any land, the atmosphere or any above or below ground water. The entirety of any such accidental discharge, dispersal, release or escape shall be deemed to be one incident. *** THE MOST WE WILL PAY for liability ...


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