The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the city of Chesapeake cannot recoup from its insurer $2.4 million in legal costs stemming from lawsuits over allegedly contaminated tap water.
The court unanimously ruled that the city’s insurance policy excludes any coverage for bodily injury arising out of actual or alleged release of pollutants.
More than 200 women sued the city for nearly $2 billion, claiming high levels of trihalomethanes, or THMs, in the city’s drinking water caused them to have miscarriages.
THM forms when chlorine mixes with organic material, such as algae and leaf particles, in the water. Some studies have linked THMs to increased health risks for pregnant women.
The state Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that the city is immune to such lawsuits, and the cases never made it to trial. But the litigation still left the city with a big legal bill.
Most of the $2.4 million was paid to two law firms — Williams Mullen, which has offices in Virginia Beach, and Breeden, Salb, Beasley & Duvall of Norfolk.
The cost of the defense does not include work done by government employees in the city attorney’s office and elsewhere.
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