S.D. justices take company’s side in a dispute with state’s underground storage tanks program

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A circuit judge in a financial case correctly ruled against state government’s program for cleaning up leaks from underground storage tanks, the South Dakota Supreme Court said.

In a decision released Thursday, the justices agreed then-Judge Patricia Devaney was right to dismiss state government’s claims against a company, BP plc, regarding pollution at 27 sites in South Dakota.

Devaney is now a Supreme Court justice. Circuit Judge Susan Sabers replaced her on the Supreme Court’s consideration of the appeal.

Justice Steven Jensen wrote the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision.

“The circuit court correctly observed that the Fund (state program) had an ‘insurmountable math problem’ as the earliest reported contamination at any of the 27 UST sites occurred in 1987, and none of the reimbursements paid by the Fund to BP came close to the $5 million SIR in place during the time of the reported contamination leaks,” Jensen wrote.

SIR is an insurance term for selfinsured retention: A dollar amount that must be paid by the insured before the insurance policy responds to a loss.

Jensen also found that then-Judge Devaney correctly determined BP wasn’t indirectly responsible for 17 other sites, and a person who worked for the company shouldn’t be sanctioned after she destroyed a paper record of some sites that had already been offered in electronic form for the case.

The full decision is available here.

In another decision released Thursday, the justices turned down an appeal by the former husband in the financial aftermath of a divorce, including upholding a court order of contempt against the man.

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