In its recent decision in Essex Walnut Owner L.P. v. Aspen Specialty Ins. Co., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138276 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 15, 2018), the United States District Court for the Northern District of California had occasion to consider the issue of a pollution liability insurer’s obligation to pay for the redesign of a structural support system necessitated by the alleged presence of soil contamination.
Aspen’s insured, Essex, owned a parcel of property it was in the process of redeveloping for commercial and residential purposes. The project required excavation activities in order to construct an underground parking lot, and as part of this process, Essex designed a temporary shoring system comprising tied-in retaining walls in order to stabilize the area outside of the excavation. During the excavation work, construction debris was encountered requiring removal. Aspen agreed to pay for a portion of the costs to remove and dispose the debris under the pollution liability policy it issued to Essex.