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The Goldfield Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

August 15, 2014

THE GOLDFIELD CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
HARTFORD ACCIDENT & INDEMNITY COMPANY; FIREMAN'S FUND INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

ORDER OF TRANSFER

THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is Defendant Fireman's Fund Insurance Company's Motion to Dismiss or Transfer (ECF No. 15). This matter was submitted for consideration without oral argument. The Court has reviewed the briefing and the record and files herein, and is fully informed.

BACKGROUND

This case involves a dispute over insurance coverage for defense, response, and remediation costs arising out of a United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") action involving land mined by Plaintiff Goldfield Corporation's predecessor. Plaintiff Goldfield Corporation ("Goldfield") sued Defendants Fireman's Fund Insurance Company ("Fireman's Fund") and Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company ("Hartford") for a declaratory judgment that provisions in the insurance policies issued by Defendants to Plaintiff's predecessor do not bar coverage. In the motion now before the Court, Defendant Fireman's Fund seeks to dismiss or transfer the case to the Middle District of Florida, citing the first-to-file rule.

FACTS[1]

Plaintiff Goldfield Corporation ("Goldfield") is a corporation organized in Delaware with its principal place of business in Florida. Defendant Fireman's Fund Insurance Company ("Fireman's Fund") is a corporation organized and with its principal place of business in California. Defendant Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company ("Hartford") is a corporation organized in and with its principal place of business in Connecticut.

Goldfield's predecessor, the Goldfield Consolidated Mines Company, owned and operated a mining property called the Sierra Zinc Site in Stevens County, Washington, from 1947 to about 1956[2], when it sold the property. Goldfield moved to Florida in 1969. ECF No. 22 at 17. Between 1977 and 1988, Fireman's Fund issued a series of insurance policies to Goldfield. Between 1977 and 1991, Hartford likewise issued a series of insurance policies to Goldfield.

The Sierra Zinc Site includes a tailings impoundment that was not previously reclaimed, and there may have been an overland flow of contaminants from the site into the tributaries of the Columbia River. The United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") identified Goldfield as a potentially responsible party, advised that it was conducting new sampling activities at the site and was planning on taking removal action, and asked if Goldfield would take responsibility for the site. Goldfield negotiated an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent ("AOC") with the EPA.

By a notice dated July 23, 2013, Goldfield tendered the EPA's claim to defendants and requested that Fireman's Fund and Hartford each agree to defend and indemnify it in connection with the EPA claim, seeking coverage for remediation, damages and other expenses. By a letter dated September 30, 2013, Fireman's Fund acknowledged Goldfield's tender and agreed to participate in the defense of Goldfield from the date of tender, subject to its reservation of rights and defenses under its policies, including its right to disclaim coverage for:

a. damages that are not because of "property damage";
b. "property damage" that did not occur during the policy period;
c. damages that did not arise out of an "occurrence";
d. damages falling within the terms of the sudden and accidental pollution exclusion;
e. damages falling within the terms of the owned property exclusion;
f. damages falling within the terms of the "alienated premises" exclusion.

By letter dated October 10, 2013, Hartford acknowledged Goldfield's tender and agreed to defend Goldfield pursuant to a full reservation of ...


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