New Jersey Supreme Court Holds That Claimants in Continuous-Trigger Environmental Coverage Cases Must Exhaust Policy Limits of Solvent Carriers Before Seeking Payment From Fund for Insolvent Carriers

Almost twenty years after establishing a methodology for allocating remediation costs among insurance policies in so-called “long-tail” cases, the New Jersey Supreme Court was faced with a new question: what happens when one of the insurers is insolvent? Applying a 2004 statutory amendment and interpreting it as reversing the result in a 1997 Appellate Division case, the Court held, in Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Salem v. New Jersey Property-Liability Insurance Guaranty Association that in such a case the policy limits of all solvent carriers must be exhausted before a claimant can recover any benefits from a special statutory fund created to stand in the place of insolvent insurers. The decision has important ramifications for corporations with complex insurance programs and potential environmental issues regarding sites where contamination may have been present over many years.