Chicago Trump Tower’s pollution fines don’t have to be covered by insurers, court rules

In 2018, the Illinois attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit against the hotel, accusing it of violating environmental laws by polluting the Chicago River.

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Chicago Trump International Hotel and Tower

According to a lawsuit filed by the Illinois attorney general’s office, Chicago’s Trump International Hotel and Tower drew 20 million gallons of water a day from the Chicago River for its cooling system and released an equal amount back in to the river at higher temperatures, harming fish.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

An Illinois appellate court ruled Wednesday that insurers of Chicago’s Trump International Hotel and Tower are not obligated to pay insurance claims in connection with the hotel’s alleged misuse of the Chicago River.

In 2018, the Illinois attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit against the hotel for violating environmental laws.

The state agency said that every day, the owners of the building drew about 20 million gallons of water out of the Chicago River for its cooling system and released the same amount back into the river at a higher temperature — potentially causing harm to fish and other aquatic life.

The suit also said owners of the hotel broke the law by failing to renew a permit for the water discharge after it expired in 2017.

The lawsuit could leave the hotel responsible for up to $12 million in fines — $10,000 for each day it was in violation.

The hotel’s insurers — Continental Casualty Co., ACE American Insurance Co., Illinois Union Insurance Co. and QBE Insurance Corp. — were seeking a court declaration that they aren’t responsible for any payments related to the state’s lawsuit. The companies successfully argued that their policies provide coverage only for “property damage” caused by an “occurrence.”

“We cannot find that this alleged conduct constitutes an ‘occurrence’ under the terms of the insurance policies,” Justice Jesse Reyes wrote in the ruling by a three-judge appellate panel.

The court ruled that because the building did not sustain damage, the insurers aren’t responsible for any pollution-related fines.

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