$100+mn Amtrak legacy APH litigation starts in earnest
Dozens of insurers have appealed to a New York court in a bid to avoid "tens of millions of dollars" of historic environmental and asbestos claims stemming from the US railway operator Amtrak.
The complaint, led by Equitas, was filed on 8 August. It claims the carriers are not responsible for claims for a mammoth environmental clean-up operation or for bodily injury payouts relating to exposure to asbestos and cancer-causing PCBs dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.
The insurers said they were first informed of the exposure in a 2006 letter, but responded reserving their right to deny coverage until more information was provided.
They said that the rail operator had either "ignored" these requests or provided "insufficient information" for the carriers to give a decision on coverage.
"Amtrak is responsible for costs of investigating and remediating environmental contamination at numerous sites in different states and has demanded indemnification for such costs," the filing said.
It continued that the rail operator had told the insurers that it was facing claims for personal injury or bodily injury from asbestos exposure and exposure to "other allegedly harmful substances or conditions".
The insurers said that over the past decade they had held numerous talks with Amtrak regarding the liabilities but that, so far, these had been fruitless.
The group said a standstill agreement had been in place between the two factions for "many years" but that Amtrak had "recently" told Equitas that the agreement had expired.
The filing said a "substantial portion" of the claims stem from three sites across New York State and Delaware.
The rail operator told its insurers that it "has incurred or expects to incur" greater liability for environmental costs from the state of New York than any other jurisdiction.
Amtrak estimated that 44 percent of costs would come from the three main sites.
Equitas said it was responsible for policies dating back to 1972 and stretching to 1986.
One of the key sites in dispute is a 100-acre maintenance and storage yard in Queens, New York.
The filing said Amtrak had been investigating reports of contamination at the Sunnyside Yard since the mid-1980s.
But it said the rail operator had refused to allow the insurers to participate in discussions with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation over the "extensive clean-up efforts" to remove sediment contaminated with PCBs.
Amtrak is now seeking compensation for the settlement agreement, which was reached in 2007, but the filing added that the projected future costs still totalled "many millions of dollars."
In a counter filing in a Washington DC court, Amtrak has asked a judge to rule that the insurers are liable for at least $132mn in environmental and bodily injury claims.
The cases continue.