February 5, 2019

Fishkin Lucks Wins Partial Summary Judgment on Novel Environmental Coverage Issue

The Firm prevailed on a motion for partial summary judgment today in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, when the Court entered a declaration that its insurance carrier client had no duty to cover the plaintiff-insured’s claim for costs associated with a sub-slab vapor mitigation system it installed to remove harmful vapors from a warehouse building located on a site undergoing environmental remediation. The issue was a matter of first impression, as the parties’ research revealed no reported cases in the United States that addressed whether costs to remediate indoor air fall under the “owned property” exclusion contained in standard Commercial General Liability policies. Plaintiff had argued that the exclusion should not bar these costs because indoor air is not “owned” by the landowner, instead falling under the state’s parens patriae protection. However, the Court agreed with the Firm that the “owned property” exclusion bars costs to cleanup an insured’s own property that have nothing to do with remediating third-party property; and here, the insured remediated its indoor air, not to remediate damage to third-party property, but solely to prevent harm to the building’s occupants.  A copy of the Court’s order can be found here.