This article examines the legal issues involved in the determination of insurer liability for environmental property damage and cleanup costs under the terms of a comprehensive general liability (CGL) policy and focuses on a significant question in environmental coverage disputes: When is coverage for environmental damage triggered under the terms of a CGL policy? To that end, the first section reviews statutory and common law principles under which liability for environmental property damage may be imposed on corporate polluters. The next section discusses the standard comprehensive general liability policy by reviewing the history of that policy and the language of the standard CGL policy. Section III of the article focuses on the meaning of an "occurrence" in the language of a standard policy, and examines the significance of four "triggers" of coverage developed by the courts in order to define the time of an "occurrence" for purposes of policy coverage: "exposure"; "injury in fact"; "manifestation" and the "triple or continuous trigger." The final section of the article discusses the courts' use of traditional techniques of statutory construction to achieve perceived public policy benefits in insurance environmental liability cases and suggests that the consequences of that approach have created an environment of uncertainty that has led to increased litigation and decreased availability of environmental liability insurance. If we are to proceed with the business of cleaning up the nation's hazardous waste sites, incentives to minimize rather than maximize insurer/insured litigation must be developed so that the funds expended on Superfund costs can be applied toward the costs of cleanup rather than on transaction costs associated with litigation.
Frona M. Powell,
Insuring Environmental Cleanup: Triggering Coverage for Environmental Property Damage under the Terms of a Comprehensive General Liability Insurance Policy,
71 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol71/iss4/9