Changing Laws and Economic Climate Affect Drycleaner Decisions To Deal With Contamination Issues
Written by Stephen Henshaw, P.G., President and CEO of EnviroForensics and PolicyFind
As seen in the April 2010 issue of Cleaner & Launderer
Over the years, I’ve written about the opportunity to utilize historical Comprehensive General Liability (CGL) insurance policies to assist in funding legal work, site investigation activities and remediation in response to claims made by environmental agencies and landlords. When I first started meeting with dry cleaners to discuss the notion that historical insurance policies were valuable assets, most business owners wouldn’t acknowledge that they had accidental spills of cleaning solvents which contaminated or may have contaminated their site. Early on, the regulatory agencies were not aggressively focusing on the dry cleaning industry as a central theme in regional and local groundwater pollution problems. The agencies were not trying to phase out PERC; and indoor vapor intrusion from dry cleaning solvents was more of a hypothetical discussion than a regulated action.
Today, the wheels continue to turn as agencies have tightened their grip on phasing out PERC and are evaluating potential risks to residences and workers where solvents have been detected in soil gas and indoor air. Court decisions involving complex environmental liability matters continue to change. Where certain state and federal courts once construed the law to allow dry cleaners to use general liability insurance policies to defend against environmental liability claims, those rulings are today being distinguished so as to reduce their precedential authority. While the occasional state court decision favors the policyholder, the rulings now usually favor the insurer’s argument that it has no duty to defend, or if they do, they are limited as to the time period in which they insured the business. Continue reading “Going, Going……Gone!”
Written by Steve Henshaw, President & CEO, EnviroForensics in collaboration with Justin Gifford, General Counsel, EnviroForensics
As seen in the January 2010 issue of Western Cleaner & Launderer
Opening up Google, a newspaper, turning on the radio or catching the evening news is sure to expose you to the national debate over health care and insurance. Through that exposure, most of us have gained at least a passing familiarity with the issue of “pre-existing conditions.” Insurers either refuse outright to cover a person with a pre-existing condition or exclude that condition from the coverage, leaving the insured to pay for it out of his pocket. Environmental liabilities and using historical insurance to offset those liabilities are not the focus of a lively national debate, yet the costs incurred by drycleaners each year due to a similar problem are staggering.
We receive calls on a regular basis from drycleaners or property owners already engaged in defining the size of a spill or actively remediating it at the “request” of regulatory agencies asking for our help locating historical insurance to pay for the investigation and cleanup. Often times, we are able to locate that insurance to fund the clean up…but just as often, the twenty, thirty or hundred and fifty thousand dollars already spent by our client cannot be recovered from the insurer even though the spending was necessary to comply with the regulator’s orders.
Continue reading “It’s a Good Idea to be Proactive!”
Written by Steve Henshaw, President and CEO of EnviroForensics and PolicyFind
As seen in the December 2009 issue of Western Cleaner & Launderer
You can tell a lot about a drycleaner’s operation by the way that he conducts housekeeping. That is to say that if a drycleaner keeps a clean store, he probably handles chemicals in a manner that minimizes environmental releases. However, good housekeeping alone may not keep you out of hot water with the regulatory agencies.
There are some simple, effective and inexpensive ways to protect your business and your assets from liability by keeping good records. If you’ve ever watched one of the procedural crime dramas, the plot usually turns around “the evidence.” Creating, organizing and maintaining records can be the evidence that keeps you out of trouble. Hazardous waste manifests, perc purchase/disposal records, transporter license numbers and treatment facility identification numbers are all examples of things you should (or, in some cases, must) keep records of. However, those records aren’t just in case of a major problem. They can help you identify a minor problem before it gets serious. Continue reading “Good Housekeeping Includes Good Record Keeping”
By Steve Henshaw, P.G., President and CEO of EnviroForensics & PolicyFind, in collaboration with David O’Neill, Director of Investigations, PolicyFind
As seen in the October 2009 issue of Western Cleaner & Launderer.
The dry cleaner had gone to the attic in search of his old business package policies. He explained that he had no idea before visiting an attorney that these old expired insurance policies could be of any use to him. Since they were package policies, they contained more than one line of insurance. Parts of the policy provided coverage against damage to his building, against break-ins, storm damage and even workers compensation coverage. As far as he knew, all of this coverage had long ago expired. Why would he still have copies of these old policies? There was no reason, he thought, that he would have kept them. They would have to be in a box or two that he had neglected to put in the dumpster. Continue reading “How Insurance Archeology Can Assist Dry Cleaners When Environmental Contamination Claims Threaten Their Business”
Written by Steve Henshaw, P.G., President & CEO, EnviroForensics
As seen in the September 2009 issue of Cleaner & Launderer
I heard from some readers that my last few articles were a little too technical and in addressing those comments, I’ve decided to go back to basics. That is to say, what are basic concerns that dry cleaners have? Since this is the Environmental Corner and staying with that topic, it is my experience that one of those basic concerns that dry cleaners might have deals with the questions,“How am I going to pay for an environmental investigation and clean-up?” Old insurance policies may be an answer.
For years I’ve espoused that business owners need to find their old comprehensive general liability (CGL) policies and store them in a safe, dry and fireproof place. CGL policies were purchased by business owners to cover them against all liability exposures of a business unless specifically excluded. Coverage includes products, completed operations, premises and operations, elevators, independent contractors, to name a few. Note the key words, “unless specifically excluded.” These words are very important in determining whether an individual or businesses old insurance policies can be used to pay for environmental investigations and clean-ups.
Continue reading “Using Old Insurance to Cover Investigation and Clean-Up Costs”