By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A Swiss insurance company that refused to pay the Sinclair Co. for damage to its refinery in Wyoming lost its bid to avoid paying legal fees in the dispute on Monday.
Wyoming’s Supreme Court ruled that state laws do not give the company Infrassure immunity from paying for legal fees if it loses its legal dispute with Sinclair.
The ruling stems from a 2013 fire and explosion at the company’s refinery in Sinclair, near Rawlins.
According to the ruling, the Sinclair Companies, the parent company for the refinery, bought insurance coverage from 18 different companies including Infrassure. All of the companies except Infrassure agreed to pay a portion of the damages resulting from the fire.
Sinclair sued Infrassure and as part of the lawsuit, asked that Infrassure be required to pay attorney fees if Sinclair won the action.
But Infrassure objected, saying state law only would require it to pay legal fees if the policy had been delivered directly to Sinclair offices in Wyoming.
The address listed on the policy itself is for Sinclair’s office in Salt Lake City.
Infrassure said since there is no evidence the policy was delivered to a Wyoming location, it does not have to pay legal fees for Sinclair.
A federal court agreed with the insurance company, but a federal appeals court said too many questions surrounded the issue and sent the case to the Wyoming Supreme Court for a final decision on language in state law.
The Supreme Court’s opinion, written by state District Judge Suzannah Robinson, who sat in with justices for the case, said the Legislature clearly did not intend for insured companies to suffer just because a company’s Wyoming office did not get a copy of a policy.
“We conclude the statute clearly and unambiguously provides that an insurance contract is issued for delivery in Wyoming if the policy issued is intended to protect an insured in Wyoming against risks in Wyoming,” it said. “To withhold the protections of (state law) from Wyoming businesses insuring risks in Wyoming simply because the address listed on the policy is in a different state is nonsensical.”