Company denying blame for Hogans Creek pollution banked millions from insurance, court filing says
Posted on October 19, 2016 by Sheryl Barr
Source: http://jacksonville.com, October 17, 2016
By: Steve Patterson
A company fighting a city lawsuit over old industrial pollution around Jacksonville’s Hogans Creek has collected $4 million from environmental insurance policies a second company says show liability, papers filed by the second company say.
That second company, Houston Pipe Line, says the payments show Continental Holdings Inc. “engaged in a deeply troubling pattern of deception” about who’s responsible for pollution left from a long-demolished manufactured gas plant at Main and Orange streets.
Houston Pipe Line, which Continental said was liable for the pollution, asked a federal judge last week for an order making Continental pay Houston Pipe Line’s court bills to defend itself from a suit the other company filed.
Insurance policies have been used up, Houston Pipe Line told the judge, so Continental “no longer has the option to resolve this claim with someone else’s money.”
The city sued Continental in 2014, saying that company was the successor of a business that operated the plant from 1874 to 1912 and left behind coal-tar pollution contaminating the city’s Confederate Park and other property around the creek that separates Springfield from downtown.
Cleaning up that pollution could cost $17 million, a consultant told city officials in 2014.
Continental said it wasn’t responsible, and filed a countersuit last year that said Houston Pipe Line was the real successor to the last company directly tied to the plant, Florida Gas Co.
The insurance policies were issued decades ago to Florida Gas Co., and the filing last week included a photocopy of a $250,000 check listing Continental as the claimant on a Florida Gas policy.
“Now that the insurance proceeds have run out, however, CHI [Continental] no longer has the option to resolve this claim with someone else’s money,” the filing claims.
A Continental attorney, John R. Thomas, said Monday that “Houston Pipe Line’s lawyers have been excessively litigious” in arguing their case, and that the company had already deflated some arguments that it misrepresented its role.
In a filing last month, the company said it had handled insurance claims at other properties in Florida and had given insurers a settlement specifically mentioning its claims against Houston Pipe Line.
That filing said that Continental “made clear to the insurers that it was negotiating as the alleged successor to Florida Gas, not as Florida Gas itself. The statements quoted by Houston are taken out of context, are in any event openly contradicted by other evidence.”