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Insurance company must pay some claims for damage from asphalt spilled on Pa. Turnpike

| Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, 1:08 p.m.
Erica Hilliard, staff photographer
A car damaged by an asphalt sealant leak on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on Nov. 22, 2011, sits in the parking lot at McDonald's in Harmar. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

A Texas insurance company is on the hook for some of the claims coming out of a Nov. 22 asphalt flux spill on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a federal judge ruled Friday.

A tanker belonging to Marino Transportation Services, also known as MTS Transport of Stevensville, Md., spilled the sticky substance over a 40-mile stretch of the eastbound side of the turnpike between the New Castle and Allegheny Valley exits. More than 900 motorists have filed damage claims.

MTS Transport's primary insurer, Travelers Indemnity Co., has already posted the $1 million it owed under the trucking company's primary policy and admits in court documents that the claims will exceed that amount.

MTS Transport holds a $4 million excess liability policy with Hallmark Specialty Insurance Co, a subsidiary of Highmark Financial Services Inc. of Fort Worth. The insurer claimed in court documents that the spill falls under a “pollution exclusion” clause and, therefore, it wasn't obligated to pay any of the claims.

U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti ruled that the insurance contract should be interpreted under the laws of the trucking company's home state, Maryland, instead of under Pennsylvania's broader interpretation of “pollution exclusion” and Hallmark will have to cover all claims that aren't for environmental damage.

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