SPRINGFIELD — The Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District has upheld a decision by a lower court in favor of ConocoPhillips in a lawsuit alleging it took
money from an insurance fund for the cleanup
of leaking underground storage tanks.
Cory Wagoner filed suit against ConocoPhillips in November 2012
for not returning money the company was paid from the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank
Insurance Fund. The money from the fund was reimbursement for ConocoPhillips after it cleaned up the leaking tanks, a problem it was alleged to have caused.
Wagoner alleged that “as a petroleum storage tank
owner and taxpayer, as well as a contributor to and a beneficiary of the Fund,
he was entitled to seek damages from ConocoPhillips due to money having been
wrongfully obtained by ConocoPhillips from the Fund," according to court documents.
The fund and ConocoPhillips asked the trial court to dismiss a
second amended petition brought by Wagoner. The trial court dismissed the
petition for the fund but not of ConocoPhillips.
Wagoner then filed a third amended petition wanting to
add a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claim against ConocoPhillips.
Because of this, ConocoPhillips moved the case to the U.S. District Court for the Western
District of Missouri. Wagoner’s motion to remand was denied. The trial court
ruled that the fund, rather than Wagoner, was the correct party to do so.
Wagoner voluntarily dismissed his federal case.
In September 2013, Wagoner filed a new lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Greene County against ConocoPhillips and its insurer, Sooner Insurance Co., and the board of trustees of the fund.
The Missouri attorney general also filed a lawsuit
The attorney general and Wagoner’s suit held similar
allegations in that, “ConocoPhillips defrauded the Fund by failing to disclose
insurance that would have covered the remediation costs reimbursed by the Fund.
Both suits claimed that alleged insurance coverage precluded ConocoPhillips
from obtaining reimbursements from the Fund. However, the Wagoner II petition
also sought, in Count IV, removal of the Fund’s trustees for alleged breaches
of fiduciary duty occurring both before and during litigation, a claim which
was not asserted or even suggested in the St. Louis lawsuit," court documents state.
A settlement was reached in the St. Louis lawsuit. The fund “released all claims” against Conoco.
In August 2015, the trial court granted a judgement
in favor of ConocoPhillips and against Wagoner, except on one count, that it lacked
standing. Wagoner then appealed the decision.
The Missouri Court of Appeals found in favor of
Wagoner on the one count, reversing the trial court’s decision. However, it upheld the rest of the trial court’s decision on appeal.