SEATTLE (CN) - Great American Insurance Co. wants nothing to do with Sea Shepherd's legal woes, saying it has no duty to defend the activists against whalers' claims that they acted as pirates when they attacked Japanese vessels.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, its former president and ship's captain, Paul Watson, and several of the nonprofit's members, popularized on the show, "Whale Wars," sought defense and indemnification from the insurer several months too late, Great American claims in Federal Court.
The whaling opponents were sued in December 2011 by the Institute of Cetacean Research, a whaling group based in Japan, along with the corporation that owned the vessels and two Japanese captains. They claimed that Sea Shepherd members threw acid-filled and incendiary projectiles at their ships and crew, and rammed their ships.
The 9th Circuit sided with the Japanese whalers, ruling that the activists were considered pirates, and banned them from going within 500 yards of the Japanese vessels.
The whalers now claim that Sea Shepherd violated the court order earlier this year by ramming and attacking more of its vessels, according to the insurer's complaint.
Great American claims it should not have to cover the activists since the whalers' suit was filed in December 2011, six months before the parties' 2012 policy even began.
Sea Shepherd is not entitled to a defense under its 2011 policy either, since the nonprofit did not submit its claim in writing to Great American until eight months after the 90-day "grace period" to do so, the insurer says.
Even if the Japanese whalers' complaint was "a claim first made and reported under one of the Great American policies," the policies contain an exclusion that "bars coverage for any claim based upon, arising out of, relating to, directly or indirectly resulting from or in consequence of, or in any way involving bodily injury, assault, battery, or damage to or destruction of any tangible property," Great American states.
The insurer wants the District Court to declare it has no duty to defend or indemnify the Sea Shepherd, Watson or members Marnie Gaede, Ben Zuckerman, Lani Blazier, Peter Rieman, Robert Wintner, Bob Talbot and Susan Hartland.
Great American is represented by Dana Ferestien with Williams Kastner & Gibbs in Seattle.