Issues of insurance coverage can arise when personal injury or property damage occurs because of the release or spill of pollutants. It is customary for insurance policies to have exclusion clauses that state that damages from pollution exposure are not covered. These types of pollution damages or injuries can arise in many circumstances. For example, an oil tank can leak and the oil can migrate to adjoining property; chemical fumes can leak from tanks used in a business and fumes can cause personal injury to others; fumes from lead paint in old buildings can injure residents; and there are many other possible circumstances.

Generally, pollution exclusion clauses can release an insurance company from coverage. However, there is case law that limits such clauses to traditional environmental pollution. For example, case law has not enforced a clause where the circumstances involve interior building exposure from fumes caused by contractor activities. The outcome of these issues can be fact-specific and complex, and depend upon the circumstances of the pollution and the wording of the insurance exclusion clauses involved. Insurance companies may add specific clauses to exclude coverage for additional specific circumstances. Review of these issues requires examination of the factual circumstances and the specific exclusion clauses in the insurance policies involved.

If you need assistance in determining if an insurer is responsible for personal injury or property damage resulting from pollution, please contact Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC at 908-735-5161.