November 29, 2011

What is the oldest fully-briefed case on the Supreme Court’s docket?

As we have mentioned in the past, Harris v. Superior Court, S156555 and Brinker Restaurant v. Superior Court, S166359, were among the oldest cases on the Supreme Court’s docket (review having been granted in 2007 and 2008, respectively). But now that those cases have been argued, what is the oldest fully-briefed civil case pending on the Court’s docket? We can’t say for sure, but it might be State of California v. Continental Insurance, S170560. The Court granted review in that case in March 2009 and the last amicus brief was filed more than two years ago. According to the Court’s website, the case presents the following issues: “(1) When continuous property damage occurs during the periods of several successive liability policies, is each insurer liable for all damage both during and outside its period up to the amount of the insurer’s policy limits? (2) If so, is the ‘stacking’ of limits – i.e., obtaining the limits of successive policies – permitted?” While these may seem to be esoteric issues of insurance law, tremendous amounts of money ride on the answers, especially in environmental cleanup cases involving contamination occurring over decades under successive insurance policies. That may explain why the Court is taking its time in deciding the case.

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