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To the extent the decisions in Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 223 Cal. App. 3d 1621, 273 Cal. Rptr. 431 (1990), and Pines of La Jolla Homeowners Assn. v. Industrial Indemnity, 5 Cal. App. 4th 714, 7 Cal. Rptr. 2d 53 (1992) are inconsistent with the principles discussed herein, those decisions are hereby disapproved. The continuous injury trigger of coverage is adopted for claims of continuous or progressively deteriorating damage or injury under third party comprehensive general liability policies. Where successive comprehensive general liability policies have been purchased, bodily injury and property damage that is continuing or progressively deteriorating throughout more than one policy period is potentially covered by all policies in effect during those periods.
The insured, a chemical corporation, obtained comprehensive general liability (CGL) insurance policies from the insurer. Lawsuits were filed against the insured involving its disposal of hazardous wastes, beginning prior to the policy periods. The insured brought a declaratory relief action against seven comprehensive general liability insurers, seeking a declaration that they had a duty to defend the company in the underlying actions. One of the insurers, which had issued policies for periods after the problems with the wastes began, moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion. The appellate court reversed because the damage was continuous.
Did the CGL insurance policies issued by the insurer obligate it to defend insured in lawsuits involving its disposal of hazardous wastes, beginning prior to the policy periods?
The California Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court, holding that the language of the policies defining covered bodily injury and property damage clearly and explicitly provided that the occurrence of bodily injury or property damage during the policy period was the operative event that triggered coverage. Furthermore, the court held that the proper trigger of coverage to be applied under a comprehensive general liability insurance policy where injury or damage is continuous or progressively deteriorating over successive policy periods is the continuous injury (or multiple) trigger. Under this trigger of coverage theory, bodily injuries and property damage that are continuous or progressively deteriorating throughout successive policy periods are covered by all policies in effect during those periods.