The Complexity of Environmental Litigation in New Jersey Requires Both Mind and Muscle

Commerce Magazine

PUBLISHED ON: November 24, 2009

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Anderson Kill & Olick locates insurance coverage for commercial property owners sued over pollution that occurred decades earlier. Insurance coverage is often like child support: you only collect if you’re very persistent. Years after selling a commercial property, two brothers were sued by the buyer for environmental cleanup of pollution allegedly caused decades earlier by a dry cleaner. The brothers retained Anderson Kill in 2006 to find insurance coverage for the claim. Recovery hinged on finding evidence of coverage dating from the 1970s. The attorneys started work with scraps of evidence. A performance bond from 1974 and policies from the late 1980s pointed toward insurers likely to have sold coverage during the occurrence period. Anderson Kill wrote repeatedly to these insurers asking them to find evidence of coverage; the insurers kept denying that such evidence existed. Finally, an attorney for one insurer announced that two boxes “that might interest you” had been found in a warehouse. Therein was a document that alluded to two policy renewals—and also to another insurer’s request for their “loss runs.” At the bottom was scribbled what proved to be a second insurer’s policy number. Both insurers ultimately admitted coverage for the cleanup and court costs; a third insurer followed suit. The brothers recovered the entirety of their cleanup and legal costs.