Communicating and coordinating with our clients' claim professionals, HETI helps insurance companies plan strategies and choose prudent courses of action for a wide range of environmental claims. Through expert fact-finding and problem-solving skills…and extensive environmental claims experience…our staff provides insurance customers with an enhanced ability to assess coverage and ultimate exposure, identify false or exaggerated claims, and settle covered claims equitably and expeditiously.
HETI has provided litigation support services on claims involving a wide variety of contaminated properties - ranging from dry cleaners, wood treatment facilities, mineral refining locations, and former manufactured gas plants…to oil terminals, pesticide manufacturing facilities, and other commercial/residential sites. These services include:
|Targeted reviews of existing materials and reports|
|Depositions and support services related to obtaining depositions from others|
|Convincing and understandable expert witness testimony|
Our efforts are focused on helping our clients win their cases, while controlling their defense costs…and we are proud of our track record - both in cases settled out-of-court and those that have gone to trial.
Representative Projects *
Litigation Support/Toxic Tort Claim, College (Massachusetts) – A large law firm, representing a defendant in a toxic tort claim, retained HETI as an expert witness on a claim for benefits for a college football coach who died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The claim alleged that exposure to chemicals used in floor resurfacing in a field house, which contained the coach’s office, lead to the development or progression of his ALS. The coach also reportedly experienced a condition frequently referred to as “multiple chemical sensitivity” (MCS). HETI reviewed flooring procedure installation documents, material safety data sheets, chemical manifests, depositions from the plaintiff and defendant, and medical reports. HETI also visited the field house to evaluate potential pollutant pathways to the coach’s office. Research on the procedures used for the floor installation and chemicals was conducted to determine dose-response relationship and to characterize the nature and magnitude of human risk. Chemical substances used for the flooring installation were researched in detail to obtain toxicity information in the recent toxicology literature and scientific journals.
HETI concluded that there was no credible causal relationship between the undocumented exposure to airborne chemical emissions associated with the field house floor resurfacing and the development or progression of ALS. The research also indicated that MCS is not recognized as a clinical disease diagnosis by the American Medical Association. The information provided in HETI’s expert opinion was used to resolve the claim.
Stormwater Claim, Mobile Home Park (Georgia) – Defense counsel for a property/casualty insurer retained HETI to evaluate the merits of a stormwater claim brought by a landowner against the insured, a mobile home park owner/manager, alleging siltation and damage to a lake. Two site visits were conducted to examine the alleged damages as well as the area surrounding the lake…and to evaluate surface features, soil, drainage patterns, property development, and the location of the insured’s property with respect to the lake. Based on these observations and evaluations, HETI determined that the outflow structure for the lake was undersized and that the claimant’s driveway and culvert were improperly constructed – causing many of the alleged problems. Information prepared by HETI provided leverage for the attorney to negotiate settlement with the landowner, which included a utility right-of-way provision for the insured’s access to the municipal sanitary sewer.
Claim Support/PCB Contamination, Former Manufacturing Facility (Massachusetts) – On behalf of an insurance company and their legal counsel, HETI negotiated the appropriateness of proposed remedial actions and costs to remove residual PCB-contaminants in downstream river sediment following an extensive source remedial action upstream. HETI proposed alternative remediation and site closure strategies, including sediment sampling to evaluate current conditions, and hot spot removal. Other potential sources of PCBs to the river sediment were researched to support a cost-recovery legal action. HETI designed a sediment and surface water investigation program to obtain the necessary PCB-congener data to support a third-party cost-recovery action, and to demonstrate that PCBs from the former die-casting manufacturing facility did not measurably contribute to PCB contaminants measured by the USGS in downstream sediment of the Neponset River.
Expert Services/UST Claim (Connecticut) – An insurance carrier retained HETI to prepare an expert opinion report for a fuel oil underground storage tank (UST) damage claim. HETI evaluated appropriate costs; demonstrated that the tank rupture did not result in a release to the environment; allocated liability between the drilling firm, field engineer, and contracting consultant; and negotiated a settlement agreement with the property owner.
Expert Testimony/Forensic Analysis, Fuel Storage Facility (Vermont) – HETI provided expert assistance and testimony in a case involving allocation of investigation and remediation costs at a site with a long history as a fuel storage facility – with multiple documented and (likely) undocumented releases over time. HETI reviewed operating history, geochemical data, and monitoring data from remedial efforts, to develop a methodology for allocating costs. The geochemical data was used to support forensic analysis of the types of petroleum present in soil and ground water, which in turn allowed correlation with historical usage and events at the site. Remedial monitoring data was also analyzed forensically to identify which types of contaminants were principally addressed by the remedial efforts.
Claim Evaluation, Manufactured Gas Plant/Utility Sites (California) - HETI assisted in evaluating a claim for past and future damages associated with a large number of former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) sites - along with other utility-related sites, such as service stations, CERCLA landfill sites, etc. HETI reviewed the claim documentation, visited the sites, and performed independent research of regulatory files - and determined that the projected actions that the insured used to develop the claim were unnecessary in light of actual site data and applicable regulatory policies. HETI prepared a detailed report documenting these deficiencies and presenting alternative approaches and cost estimates. The claim settled favorably for the insurance company.
Litigation Support/Expert Testimony, Industrial Firm (Massachusetts) – HETI has provided technical support and expert testimony to defense counsel for a trial related to hydrologic impacts on a property downgradient of a large development site. The plaintiff’s claim alleges the industrial firm’s activities had resulted in flooding of a downstream neighborhood. HETI’s testimony involved changes in ground water and surface water flow patterns, impacts on receiving streams, changes in flooding, water quality impacts, and sedimentation and sediment control practices. As a result of HETI’s expert services, the client has decided not to settle the claim and mediation is pending.
Claim Settlement, Mining/Minerals Processing Facilities (Multi-State) - A leading property/casualty insurer retained HETI to evaluate a claim for environmental damages associated with mines and mineral processing facilities in numerous states. HETI obtained documents by performing regulatory file reviews, and interviewed State and Federal environmental and mine regulators. HETI's objective was to assess past and future costs - many of which were associated with management of tailings, mine waters, and processing wastes - and to evaluate the costs relative to coverage exclusions. HETI identified significant issues with the expected and intended consequences of waste management, and ordinary costs of doing business associated with activities included in the claim. HETI also assessed the applicability of nuclear exclusions to the claim…and prepared a present-value analysis of costs, which would be incurred over a long time frame.
HETI made a series of visits to the site to observe site conditions and to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to review spill files. As a result, HETI determined that the site was involved in an environmental cleanup that had been initiated about 10 years earlier. HETI further evaluated the environmental work completed at the site and determined that the dispenser spill resulted in minimal contribution to the ground water plume. As a result, the insurance company agreed to pay $8,000 for cleanup costs...$118,000 less than the initial demand.
Claim Investigation, Asbestos Abatement Project (West Virginia) - An environmental insurance carrier retained HETI to conduct an investigation of the asbestos abatement of a sand storage building at a thoroughbred horse race track. The purpose of the investigation was to collect information to be used in the claims decision-making process regarding an alleged breach in the containment. The insured, an asbestos abatement contractor, had been hired by the race track to remove asbestos from the storage facility - where insulation located on the interior roof of the building was in poor condition and had fallen onto the stored sand on several occasions… posing a health threat to those working in the building and spreading the sand on the racetracks. During a compliance inspection conducted at the site by a State regulatory agency, openings in the building containment were observed. A Cease and Desist Order was issued to stop the abatement project until the owner and contractor could ensure the regulator that further abatement and demolition activities would not endanger those working around the building and would also be conducted in compliance with asbestos regulations.
HETI inspected the asbestos abatement project site; met with representatives of the race track and the abatement contractor; and conducted an investigation to determine: (1) if the insured was negligent in the performance of their duties with respect to generally recognized principles and methodologies used for asbestos abatement; (2) the precipitating accident and/or event(s) which may have caused negligence, if negligence was indicated; (3) the insured's response to the accident or incident alleged to have caused a problem on the project; (4) the outcome of the investigation by the State regulatory agencies involved in the case; (5) regulatory requirements to properly complete the project; (6) the claimant's needs to mitigate potential liability damages; and (7) appropriate intervention strategies. The investigation revealed negligent asbestos removal work practices. In order to correct the problems caused by the breach of the containment, HETI communicated with the regulators and developed supplementary project specifications for a new project design to successfully complete the abatement.
* This is a brief description of selected Claims and Litigation Support projects completed by HETI. For a more complete discussion of our capabilities, please contact us for a copy of our Statement of Qualifications.