Cascade Corporation v. American Home Assurance Co. et al.

Old insurance policies worth
millions to groundwater cleanup

Problem: The Oregon DEQ required Rick’s manufacturing client, Cascade Corporation, to investigate and remediate solvent contamination in groundwater near a well field the City of Portland had recently constructed as a backup regional water supply. The Boeing Company, which owned a neighboring plant that also had historic solvent releases, at the same time sued Cascade over which business was primarily responsible for total costs of the area-wide cleanup. Years later, the City of Portland sued Cascade for alleged damage to the well field. These actions threatened to impose potentially immense costs on Rick’s client.

Solution: Working with the client’s risk manager and insurance agent to locate as many old comprehensive general liability insurance policies as possible, Rick tendered a defense of the DEQ cleanup action and the Boeing contribution case to Cascade’s liability insurance companies. While several companies stepped forward to defend Cascade in the Boeing case, none were willing to defend Cascade in the DEQ cleanup proceeding. As a result, Cascade then brought a coverage action for damages and declaratory relief.

After substantial discovery of the client’s site and insurance-coverage history, the case went to a three-month jury trial with Rick as the lead trial lawyer for Cascade. A number of insurance companies settled just before and during the trial. Then Rick won a $12 million verdict against the remaining two insurance companies. The trial court reduced the judgment to $1.6 million because of the size of the earlier settlements. Cascade appealed that decision, which Rick argued. The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the reduction of the judgment in a landmark Oregon case on joint and several liability of insurance companies who insured their policyholder’s losses occurred over many years.

See Rick’s final argument in the jury trial; and the opinion of the Oregon Court of Appeals.