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Published: Saturday, 9/7/2002

Port board loses bid to recoup $1.15M

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority can't recover its portion of a $4.6 million settlement from a consortium of insurance companies in a case involving noisy planes at Toledo Express Airport, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge James Carr issued an order this week that the port authority's insurance companies - identified as the London Companies in the ruling - did not cover the port for such claims, so it could not show the insurers acted in bad faith.

The judge's decision means that the port can't recoup $1.15 million the agency paid as part of a settlement reached in 1999 with homeowners who contended they and their properties were harmed by the cargo operation of Burlington Air Express, now known as BAX Global, Inc.

Richard Kerger, a Toledo attorney who represented one of the insurance companies involved in the litigation, said he doesn't think the underwriters that were sued in the case issued policies that covered the port authority for the noise nuisance settlement.

“I'm glad it's resolved because if there's going to be an appeal, we'll know, and my client can put the issue to rest,” he said.

Brian Schwartz, manager of communications for the port authority, said no decision has been made on whether to appeal the ruling.

“We have not seen the ruling yet and we can't comment on what's in the ruling or our course of action until we've read it,” he said.

The case has a long legal history dating back to 1992. The initial suits were filed by the homeowners in Common Pleas Court in Lucas and Fulton counties after residents complained about noise caused by the cargo planes.

Burlington began night operations at its Toledo cargo-sorting hub in 1991. During the mid-1990s, 30 or more arrivals and departures were common, most occurring between midnight and 6 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

In the wake of the residents' lawsuit and complaints, the port authority bought several hundred houses, two nursing homes, and a Jehovah's Witnesses hall to clear land closest to the airport.

Hundreds of other homes were equipped with new windows, doors, and insulation in order to cut down on the noise from the planes.

In 1999, a $4.6 million settlement was reached with homeowners before the case went to trial. About $3.45 million was paid by Coregis Insurance Co., a Chicago business that was one of the port's insurers. The rest was paid by the port authority.

Coregis joined the port authority as a plaintiff in the suit. In addition to the settlement, Mr. Kerger said his records show the plaintiffs were trying to recoup $1.6 million in legal fees.



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