Eleventh Circuit Rules That Pollution Exclusion Bars Coverage for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Applying Georgia law, the Eleventh Circuit held that a general liability insurer had no duty to defend carbon monoxide bodily injury claims by virtue of the policy’s pollution exclusion. Scottsdale Ins. Co. v. Pursley, 2012 WL 3553405 (11th Cir. Aug. 20, 2012) (unpublished opinion). The court rejected the policyholder’s argument that pollution exclusions apply only to conventional environmental pollution, reasoning that “no language in the policy supported restricting application of the exclusion to traditional environmental pollution.”

Whether a standard absolute pollution exclusion bars coverage for carbon monoxide-related claims has become a frequent source of litigation, with mixed results. While numerous jurisdictions have found the exclusion applicable to such claims (including courts in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Pennsylvania), other courts have concluded that the exclusion is not intended to apply to small scale injury caused by exposure to carbon monoxide (including courts in Connecticut, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Ohio).