California Supreme Court Finds that the Notice-Prejudice Rule Applicable to Insurance is a Fundamental Public Policy of the State

Law books on shelf

Christopher Kendrick and Valerie A. Moore discuss Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Ins. Co.

October 14, 2019
Christopher Kendrick & Valerie A. Moore – Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP

In Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Ins. Co. (No. S239510, filed 8/29/19), the California Supreme Court held that California’s notice-prejudice rule is a fundamental public policy in the insurance context, supporting the application of California law under a choice of laws analysis. In addition, the Court held that the rule generally applies to consent (aka “no voluntary payments”) provisions in first party insurance policies but not to consent provisions in third party liability policies.

Pitzer College discovered soils contamination while building a new dormitory. Under pressure to complete construction before the start of the school year, Pitzer proceeded to remediate the soils, incurring $2 million in expense. Pitzer submitted a claim to Indian Harbor, which provided Pitzer insurance covering legal and remediation expenses resulting from pollution conditions discovered during the policy period.

The policy contained a notice provision requiring Pitzer to provide oral or written notice of any pollution condition to Indian Harbor and, in the event of oral notice, to “furnish … a written report as soon as practicable.” In addition, a consent provision required Pitzer to obtain Indian Harbor’s written consent before incurring expenses, making payments, assuming obligations, and/or commencing remediation due to a pollution condition. The consent provision had an emergency exception for costs incurred “on an emergency basis where any delay … would cause injury to persons or damage to property or increase significantly the cost of responding to any [pollution condition],” in which case Pitzer was required to notify Indian Harbor “immediately thereafter.” Lastly, a choice of law provision stated that New York law governed all matters arising under the policy.

Reprinted courtesy of Christopher Kendrick, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP and Valerie A. Moore, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP
Mr. Kendrick may be contacted at ckendrick@hbblaw.com
Ms. Moore may be contacted at vmoore@hbblaw.com



714.701.9180

Arrange No Cost Consultation

 

Construction Defect Journal is aggregated from a variety of news sources, article submissions, contributors, and information from industry professionals.

No content on this site should be construed as legal advice or expert opinion. By viewing this site you agree to be bound by its terms and conditions

 

Copyright 2019 - Construction Defect Journal – All Rights Reserved