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Covering Pollution Damage as a Personal Injury: A Recent California Case Bolsters Insureds' Arguments for Coverage

March 1996

Citation: 26 ELR 10124

Issue: 3

Author: David Read, Stephen Meyer, and Barbara Morris

In 1994, a California case called Titan Corp. v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Co.1 seemed to signal the closing of the door on insureds' hopes for insurance coverage for environmental cleanups under the Personal Injury section of their commercial general liability policies. However, a recent California Court of Appeal case, Martin Marietta Corp. v. Insurance Co. of North America,2 may mean that the door remains ajar.

Government agencies seek to recover the costs of environmental cleanups from the persons they identify as potentially responsible for the contamination. In turn, these potentially responsible parties often seek defense and indemnity from the insurance companies from whom they obtained Comprehensive General Liability (CGL) policies. The insurance companies invariably deny coverage. This has led to a flood of lawsuits around the country over the last six years about the scope of CGL policies.

David Read is an associate, Stephen Meyer is a partner, and Barbara Morris is of counsel with Downey, Brand, Seymour & Rohwer, located in Sacramento, California. Mr. Read's practice emphasizes environmental, insurance coverage, and construction litigation. Mr. Meyer's practice emphasizes environmental, banking, and complex business litigation. Ms. Morris emphasizes insurance coverage, employment litigation, and civil appeals in her practice.

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