Wednesday, September 9, 2015
GIVAUDAN FRAGRANCES CORPORATION VS. AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY COMPANY A/K/A TRAVELERS CASUALTY AND SURETY COMPANY, ET AL. A-2270-12T4
GIVAUDAN FRAGRANCES CORPORATION VS. AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY COMPANY A/K/A TRAVELERS CASUALTY AND SURETY COMPANY, ET AL.
The Givaudan Corporation contaminated the groundwater and soil with hazardous materials in the vicinity of its plant in Clifton over many decades. Between 1964 and 1986, defendant insurance companies issued occurrence-based policies to this company, which later merged into another company in the 1990s. The successor by merger to the Givaudan Corporation acquired the rights under those policies. Various environmental actions were brought against plaintiff, an affiliate of the successor by merger, for the environmental damage the Givaudan Corporation caused between 1964 and 1986. The successor by merger assigned its rights under the insurance policies to plaintiff, which sought coverage under the policies.
Defendants denied coverage, raising a number of defenses. Primarily they argued the policies could not be assigned because
of a no-assignment provision in the respective policies. The trial court found in favor of defendants and dismissed plaintiff’s declaratory judgment action.
We reversed, noting that under settled principles, an insured may assign its rights under a policy after a loss because an insurer's risk remains the same regardless of the insured's identity. Further, once an insurer's liability has become fixed due to a loss, an assignment of rights to collect under an insurance policy is not a transfer of the actual policy but a transfer of the right to a claim of money.