Fresh off the heels of the California Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Montrose Chemical Corp. v. Super. Ct. of L.A. Cty. (“Montrose III”),1 policyholders scored another victory as another California court rejected horizontal exhaustion in the context of continuous injury cases. The Court of Appeal of the State of California, First Appellate District, Division Four, in SantaFe Braun Inc. v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., adopted a rule of vertical exhaustion, holding that “[absent an explicit policy provision to the contrary] the insured becomes entitled to the coverage it purchased from the excess carriers once the primary policies specified in the excess policy have been exhausted.”2
The dispute in SantaFe Braun began in 1992 when asbestos-related claims were first filed against Braun. In 1998, Braun’s three primary insurers agreed in writing to defend and settle the underlying claims against Braun while resolving allocation among themselves. In 2004, Braun filed the current suit against its excess insurers, seeking a declaration that the excess insurers were obligated to help cover the costs of the underlying asbestos-related lawsuits.