August 1, 2000
Policyholders recently won a major victory against the insurance industry. In Textron Inc. v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Company (Texton-Wheatfield) the Supreme Court of Rhode Island severely limited the pollution exclusion as a basis for the insurance industry to deny liability insurance coverage for a policyholder’s environmental liabilities from long-term contamination. The Rhode Island Supreme Court also reaffirmed its earlier decision in Textron’s favor that coverage is “triggered”under occurrence-based liability insurance policies in any year in which environmental property damage (1) manifests itself, (2) is discovered, or (3) in the exercise of reasonable diligence is discoverable (Textron-Gastonia). The Textron-Wheatfield decision unanimously re-affirmed that latent injury or latent environmental contamination is covered even if it is not immediately discernible.