NJ Supreme Court Declines to Review Decision that Exxon Has No Duty to Indemnify Insurers for Environmental Liability Under Prior Settlement Agreement

Judges standing behind bench

Home Insurance Company v. Cornell-Dubilier Electronics Incorporated, et al., has a unique and convoluted procedural history.

November 29, 2021
Patricia B. Santelle & Laura Rossi - White and Williams

On November 1, 2021, in a single-sentence Order, the Supreme Court of New Jersey denied a request for review of a decision that ExxonMobil Corporation (Exxon) did not have to indemnify certain of its insurers over environmental liabilities as required by a previous settlement agreement. The case, entitled Home Insurance Company v. Cornell-Dubilier Electronics Incorporated, et al., has a unique and convoluted procedural history but, in short, the denial of review leaves standing a holding by the intermediate appellate court that the insurers’ “untimely notice actually prejudiced Exxon, violated the no-prejudice rule, and breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.” The court declined to consider the question framed by the insurers: whether the importance of enforcing settlement agreements outweighs New Jersey’s entire controversy doctrine.

The matter dated back almost thirty years, when the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection notified the Appearing London Market Insurers (ALMI) of the potential liability of Cornell-Dublier Electronics (CDE), a former indirect subsidiary of Exxon, for pollution at a site in New Jersey. Coverage litigation followed in New Jersey, which ALMI defended under policies issued to CDE. Exxon was not named in the CDE suit nor were the policies which ALMI issued to Exxon at issue in that case; Exxon instead had its own pollution coverage case pending in New York. In June 2000, Exxon and its insurers, including ALMI, entered into a settlement agreement which (a) required Exxon to indemnify the insurers for any environmental liability claims involving its subsidiaries, and (b) provided for application of New York substantive law and litigation in New York City court for any dispute between the parties under it.

Reprinted courtesy of Patricia B. Santelle, White and Williams and Laura Rossi, White and Williams
Ms. Santelle may be contacted at santellep@whiteandwilliams.com
Ms. Rossi may be contacted at rossil@whiteandwilliams.com



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