The Georgia Court of Appeals held on November 20, 2015, that compliance with an excess liability policy’s notice provision is not a precedent to coverage. Plantation Pipe Line Co. v. Stonewall Insurance Co., No. A15A1359 (Nov. 20, 2015 Ga. App., 3rd Div.). In Plantation Pipeline, the insured sought coverage for ground contamination originating from a 1976 pipeline leak. The leak was fixed and remediated shortly after it was discovered. In 2009, Plantation discovered further contamination at the site, which it again remediated. Plantation sought coverage for the remediation. Stonewall denied coverage based on the policy’s notice provision, contending that notice of the leak and remediation was untimely. The parties cross-moved for summary and the trial court granted Stonewall’s motion. On appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that Plantation’s notice was not timely as it did not report the claim to Stonewall for more than two years. However, the majority agreed with Plantation that the notice provision does not “expressly stipulate that compliance with the notice provision is a condition precedent to coverage.” The panel further found that “the policy does not even contain a general provision that no action will lie against Stonewall unless, as a condition precedent thereto, Plantation shall have fully complied with all terms of the policy.” Thus, the panel found it was error for the trial court to preclude coverage based on a failure to provide timely notice.
Plantation Pipeline illustrates the importance of reading carefully the specific language of any insurance policy that potentially affords coverage for a loss. Where one policy might limit or preclude coverage for a particular loss, another may not. Knowing what your policy says, therefore, is critical to obtaining all of the coverage benefits to which you are entitled.