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Briggs & Stratton Corp. v. Royal Globe Ins. Co.

Citation: 30 ELR 20151
No. No. 5:97CV569WDO, 64 F. Supp. 2d 1346/49 ERC 1502/(M.D. Ga., 09/23/1999)

The court holds that a manufacturer's failure to provide its insurer with adequate notice of a potential Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) claim negates the insurer's liability under the insurance policy. The case arose after the manufacturer sold electroplating chemicals to a company that subsequently contaminated property by discharging wastewater containing those chemicals. The court first holds that the contamination falls within the policy's definition of property damage. The exposure trigger of coverage is applicable to this case, and such exposure occurred during the policy period. The court also holds that the policy's exclusionary clause does not negate coverage under the facts of the case. Although the manufacturer intentionally transported the chemicals to a company for sale and/or disposal, the chemicals' discharge into unlined lagoons was unexpected and unintentional from the manufacturer's standpoint. Nevertheless, the court holds that the manufacturer failed to provide adequate notice to the insurer as required under the policy. The manufacturer waited 13 months after receiving documents concerning its potential CERCLA liability before notifying its insurer, and a delay of this length is unreasonable as a matter of law. Moreover, the manufacturer's attempted notification to an independent insurance agent was not the equivalent of notification to the insurer.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (12 pp., ELR Order No. L-107).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Daniel S. Reinhardt
Troutman & Sanders
5200 NationsBank Plaza
600 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta GA 30308
(404) 885-3000

Counsel for Defendants
Linda B. Foster
Weissman, Nowack, Curry & Wilco
Two Midtown Plaza
1349 W. Peachtree St., 15th Fl., Atlanta GA 30309
(404) 885-9215