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Port Murray Dairy Co. v. Providence Washington Insurance Co.

Decided: October 30, 1958.

PORT MURRAY DAIRY COMPANY, A CORPORATION OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PROVIDENCE WASHINGTON INSURANCE COMPANY, A CORPORATION; THE ROYAL EXCHANGE ASSURANCE, A CORPORATION; THE HOME INSURANCE COMPANY, A CORPORATION; MARYLAND CASUALTY COMPANY, A CORPORATION; NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA., A CORPORATION; THE CONTINENTAL INSURANCE COMPANY, A CORPORATION; INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA, A CORPORATION; DEFENDANTS



Sullivan, J.s.c.

Sullivan

This suit involves the construction of insurance policies issued to plaintiff by defendants and whether or not losses and expenses alleged to have been suffered or incurred by plaintiff were insured against or covered by these policies.

The situation has a factual background as follows. A number of dairy farmers in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey had organized a guild in order to collectively negotiate for a higher price for the milk which they sold to the dairies. When the dairies refused to have anything

to do with the guild, a milk strike was called. Plaintiff was one of the dairies affected by the so-called strike which commenced on February 24, 1957, and lasted until March 1 when it collapsed upon this court's issuing an injunction against the continuance of numerous acts of force, violence and intimidation.

During the strike the entrances and exits to plaintiff's plant were blocked off by a mob of approximately 50 men armed with clubs, cans of kerosene and spiked planks. These pickets prevented the movement of any milk either into or out of plaintiff's premises. Attempts were made to bring raw milk in and to ship the processed milk on hand out through the picket lines. The efforts were abandoned however when it became obvious that violence would result. There is no doubt but that the plant was effectively blockaded and nothing could be shipped in or out of it during the strike. Actually, the pickets did not damage or destroy any of plaintiff's plant or equipment. They simply prevented it from operating at all during the strike period.

As a result of the enforced shutdown of its plant, plaintiff claims that it suffered damages as follows. The milk and milk products which were in the plant at the commencement of the blockade, being perishable, deteriorated because of plaintiff's inability to ship it out. Much of it went bad and had to be dumped. When the strike ended, plaintiff salvaged some, by selling it locally for immediate consumption. The rest was disposed of at a loss for cheese manufacturing purposes, that being the only use to which it could be put due to its condition.

Another item of alleged damage resulted from plaintiff's efforts to maintain a milk supply to its distributors during the strike. Because its own plant was shut down by the blockade, plaintiff was obliged to purchase some outside milk and arrange to have this milk as well as some of the milk from its usual suppliers delivered to and processed by other dairies not affected by the strike. This effort to maintain normal business operations resulted in extra expense to plaintiff.

Plaintiff's final claim stems from the inability of the local constabulary to provide adequate police protection. Deputies had to be hired to guard the plant during the strike and plaintiff was billed by the sheriff for the cost thereof. In addition, plaintiff joined with a number of other dairies in bringing court proceedings for injunctive relief and paid its share of the legal expenses.

As to all of these items of damage, cost and expense, it is plaintiff's contention that it is covered by insurance policies issued by defendants. Defendants, on the other hand say, that none of the policies issued to plaintiff extend coverage to the particular losses claimed.

At the trial it was agreed to limit the hearing in the first instance to the question of coverage or liability. In the event of a determination in favor of plaintiff, a further hearing would then be held on the quantum of plaintiff's recovery as well as the apportionment of liability among the several insurance carriers.

As to the alleged loss of, and damage to, the milk and milk products which were in the plant during the strike, plaintiff asserts coverage under a fire insurance policy issued by Insurance Company of North America for the contents of plaintiff's buildings. The policy contains two endorsements extending coverage to include specified perils, either one of which, according to plaintiff, entitles it to relief. The first endorsement is a "vandalism and malicious mischief endorsement" and extends coverage "to include direct loss caused by Vandalism and Malicious Mischief, being only wilful and malicious damage to or destruction of the described property." The mere reading of this endorsement indicates that the factual situation upon which plaintiff bases its claim for relief does not bring it within the limits of this endorsement. The acts complained of did not result in any direct loss nor did they constitute vandalism or ...


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