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Published: Friday, 5/7/2004

Port to recoup some money from insurers

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority may recover a portion of a $4.6 million settlement paid in 1999 to homeowners near Toledo Express Airport from a consortium of insurance companies.

The federal court in Cincinnati reversed an order from U.S. District Court Judge James Carr in a lawsuit filed by the port authority against insurance companies that provided coverage for the agency.

The lawsuit stems from the port authority's attempt to recoup $1.15 million the agency paid as part of a settlement reached with homeowners in Lucas and Fulton counties.

The residents claimed their properties were harmed after Burlington Air Express, now

known as BAX Global, Inc., began cargo operations at Toledo Express Airport.

The lawsuits were filed in the mid-1990s, but the port authority reached a settlement with the plaintiffs without going to trial.

Judge Carr ruled in 2002 that the port authority couldn't recover its portion of the settlement because the scope of the insurance provided by London Companies and Navigators did not include coverage for those types of claims.

However, in reversing the lower court, Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton said the public officials liability portion of the policy covers both the port authority and its officers and employees.

Brian Schwartz, manager of communications for the port authority, said the agency had no comment because its attorneys are still reviewing the decision.

"We are real pleased with the findings. We still need to review it with our legal counsel before we can take the next step," he said. Jack Tsu, an attorney for the Chicago law firm of Christensen & Ehret, which represents the London Companies, said there are other issues still pending, including whether the policy only covered the agency's port operations and not the airport facilities.

"While we respectfully acknowledge the appellate court's decision, the court did remand the case back to the court on a number of issues, which we will ultimately prevail on," Mr. Tsu said.

No trial date has been set.

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