WPS Corp. v. Heritage Mut. Ins. Co

In WPS Corp. v. Heritage Mut. Ins. Co., 209 Wis. 2d 160, 561 N.W.2d 726 (1997), WPS agreed to install gas service to a building owned by the Tomahawk School District and hired Helmreich Utility Construction, an independent contractor, to actually install the service. See WPS, 209 Wis. 2d at 164. While installing the service, Helmreich cut an underground pipe, contaminating the surrounding soil with fuel oil. See id. The DNR subsequently sent letters to Tomahawk and WPS, ordering them to investigate and remediate the property. See id. WPS thereafter commenced a direct action against Helmreich's insurer, based upon a CGL policy it had issued to Helmreich. See id. The insurer moved for summary judgment, claiming, in relevant part, that reimbursement for investigation and remediation costs did not constitute "damages" under the policy. See 209 Wis. 2d at 164-165. The WPS court noted that "where parties other than the EPA or DNR seek recovery from an insurer for damages its insured allegedly inflicted through contamination on property that does not fit within an owned-property exclusion, the suit seeks 'damages' under an insurance policy." 209 Wis. 2d at 165.