Commercial liability policies are used to guard against a variety of possible occurrences. In the world of insurance defense, Goetz & Eckland is often called to offer coverage opinions on some exceptionally unique corner cases of policy coverage.
In the on-going class action suit of EEE Minerals, LLC, et al. v. The State of North Dakota, et al., plaintiffs brought suit in North Dakota state court alleging unjust taking without compensation by the State and conversion against numerous investor defendants of oil and mineral property rights along the Missouri River. The Garrison Dam, built in 1953, caused the upstream portion of the Missouri River to inundate and widen. The Complaint alleges that property rights for land adjacent to rivers are determined by the “ordinary high water mark,” determined by State policy prior to the creation of the dam. Therefore, the “land”, and any oil and mineral deposits, underneath the new boundaries of the Missouri River is, according to the Complaint, rightful property of the adjacent landowners.
Attorney Deborah Eckland provided a coverage opinion to Westfield Insurance regarding a claim for coverage by one such investor for this complex contractual matter. Commercial liability policies require there be an “occurrence,” that is, an accident before the protections of the policy apply. Because plaintiffs were alleging the intentional tort of conversion, there could be no accident and no coverage under the policy. As part of her complete representation, attorney Eckland provided her client with a suite of options regarding its obligations to defend its insureds and her ultimate recommendation against providing coverage.