Blog Archives

Vermont: First-Party Pollution Exclusions Are Not Confined to Traditional Environmental Pollution.

Courts in a number of American states, notably California, have found that pollution exclusions in first-party policies are “inherently ambiguous” and that the purpose of such provisions is “to address liability arising from traditional environmental pollution, and not ‘ordinary acts of negligence involving harmful substances.’ ” On December 11th, the Vermont Supreme Court unanimously refused to follow that line of jurisprudence in Whitney v. Vermont Mut. Ins. Co., 2015 VT 140, 2015 Vt. LEXIS 120, 2015 WL 8540432 (Vt., Dec. 11, 2015), holding instead that a standard form pollution exclusion was unambiguous in nature and clearly operated to bar coverage after the spraying of a pesticide chased the policyholders out of their home. The insureds had a house in Rutland,

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Ambiguity, Contamination, Pollution

Pennsylvania Court Orders Production of Underwriting Files On Similar Claims By Other Policyholders

Carriers routinely resist efforts to compel production of the underwriting and claims files on other policyholders on the basis of relevance.  Early last month in H.J. Heinz Co. v. Starr Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 2015 WL 5781295, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138080, (W.D.Pa., Oct. 1, 2015), an insurer lost that fight when a federal court in Pennsylvania required it to produce the files.  The case is noteworthy, but arguably limited in terms of its application to other disputes.  A Phase One trial was directed solely to the insurer’s efforts to rescind the policy because of material misrepresentations in the application, and discovery addressing whether the insured was being treated the same way as other similarly-situated policyholders was uniquely important given

Tagged with:
Posted in Contamination, Contamination and Product Recall, Discovery, Rescission

New Jersey Panel: If a Flood Is Excluded, So Are the Unhealthy Water-Borne Substances that It Leaves Behind

Yesterday, a unanimous panel of New Jersey’s intermediate level appellate court rejected policyholder arguments that even though flood was excluded, the proximate cause of their Superstorm Sandy loss was the non-excluded peril of damage from “unhealthy water-borne substances” left behind by the receding water.  In Riccio v. Allstate N.J. Ins. Co., 2015 WL 6181466, 2015 N.J. Super. LEXIS 2417 (N.J. App., Oct. 22, 2015), the judges recognized that to hold otherwise would render the flood exclusions in homeowner’s policies meaningless. The insureds owned a home in Little Silver that was inundated by 20”-36” of water when a creek behind their property overflowed its banks during Superstorm Sandy on October 29, 2012.  They initially attempted to clean the house themselves, removing

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Contamination, Flood, Homeowners Coverage, Microorganisma, Superstorm Sandy, Water

California Court Adopts Expansive Reading of Contamination and Product Recall Coverage

Two weeks ago in Foster Poultry Farms, Inc. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138609, 2015 WL 5920289 (E.D.Cal., Oct. 9, 2015), a California Court applying New York law found coverage under a product contamination insurance policy for a loss of poultry caused by salmonella.  The Court allowed the recovery of decontamination expenses as “accidental contamination,” holding that the policyholder need only prove that there was a “reasonable probability” that consumption of its processed chicken would lead to bodily injury or sickness.  In addition, the Court rejected the insurers’ arguments that the undefined term “recall” was only applicable if the loss involved the of destruction of product already in the hands of customers, and it thereby

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Ambiguity, Contamination, Contamination and Product Recall, Product Recall, Uncategorized

Arizona Court: Argument that All Business Income Loss Caused by a Wildfire is Covered is “Off Base”

Several weeks ago in White Mt. Communities Hosp., Inc. v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co., 2015 WL 1755372, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50900 (D. Ariz., Apr. 17, 2015), an Arizona federal court underscored that business interruption losses flowing from a wildfire are only covered to the extent that they stem directly from physical loss or damage to the policyholder’s property.  In other words, loss of income due to the fire in general is beyond the scope of such coverage absent a causal nexus with repairs necessitated by the blaze. The policyholder White Mountain owned a hospital in Springerville, Arizona.  On May 29, 2011, a blaze was started by an abandoned campfire in the nearby Bear Wallow Wilderness Area.  The wildfire ultimately

Tagged with:
Posted in Business Interuption, Causation, Contamination, Direct Physical Loss or Damage, Fire, Smoke and Soot, Wildfire

California Court Holds Product Contamination Insurance Does Not Cover Ingredients Contaminated by Insured’s Supplier

On February 6th, an intermediate level California appellate court held that a product contamination policy only covered contamination that occurs during or after manufacturing operations by the insured, meaning that there was no coverage where the policyholder’s product was found to be adulterated because it used an ingredient that had been contaminated by a third-party supplier.  The decision is Windsor Food Quality Co. v. Underwriters of Lloyds of London, 2015 WL 901867, 2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 195 (Cal.App., Feb. 6, 2015).  One of the three panel members filed a lengthy and convincing dissent that is arguably a more correct interpretation of the language at issue. The policyholder was Windsor Food Quality Company, a frozen food manufacturer.  Windsor’s ground beef supplier

Tagged with:
Posted in Contamination, Contamination and Product Recall

Silica Dust Damage Held Barred by Pollution and Faulty Workmanship Exclusions in New York

Building construction frequently generates silica dust, a substance that can cause lung disease and other respiratory problems.  Abrasive sand-blasting or jack hammering as well as concrete drilling and block cutting can lead to its release.  In Broome Cty. v. Travelers Indem. Co., – N.Y.S.2d –, 125 A.D.3d 1241, 2015 WL 790256, 2015 N.Y.App.Div. LEXIS 1706 (N.Y.App.Div., Feb. 26, 2015), a unanimous panel from New York’s intermediate level appellate court held that the pollution and faulty workmanship exclusions in a first-party policy barred coverage for the property damage when silica dust spread throughout an office building due to construction activities nearby. The insured was Broome County, the owner of a building in a government complex.  During the construction of a parking

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Ambiguity, Contamination, Faulty Workmanship or Design, Particulates, Pollution

California: Service of Suit Endorsement Trumps Forum Selection Clause in Case Involving Product Recall Due to Contamination.

On February 5th in a case involving the recall of over $500,000 worth of oyster products made from Korean shellfish, the Southern District of California held: (1) that the policy’s service of suit clause, which gave the insured the choice of forum, trumped a forum selection clause that provided for suit in a New York state court; (2) that California law, as opposed to New York law, applied, and (3) that for purposes of a 12(b)(6) motion, plaintiff’s complaint, which alleged potential contamination, was sufficient to state a claim.  The decision is Tri-Union Seafoods, LLC v. Starr Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 2015 WL 728477, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23441 (S.D.Cal., Feb. 5, 2015). The case arose after Tri-Union Seafoods initiated a

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Bad Faith, Contamination, Contamination and Product Recall

Virginia Court Nixes Claim Chinese Drywall Damage to HVAC Systems is Covered as Equipment Breakdown

In Travco Ins. Co. v. Ward, 284 Va. 547, 736 S.E.2d 321 (2012), the Virginia Supreme Court held that loss occasioned by the sulfuric gas released by defective Chinese drywall was excluded under the primary coverage grant of a property policy because of exclusions for corrosion and pollution.  Last month, a Virginia federal court shut down claims that such a loss might nonetheless be covered under a policy’s secondary coverage provisions extending coverage to equipment breakdown.  The matter was Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. CG Stony Point Townhomes, LLC, 2015 WL 236826, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5682 (E.D.Va., Jan. 15, 2015). The policyholder made claim after the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems in five townhouses at its Creek’s Edge

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Contamination, Corrosion, Mechanical Breakdown, Pollution
About The Property Insurance Law Observer
For more than four decades, Cozen O’Connor has represented all types of property insurers in jurisdictions throughout the United States, and it is dedicated to keeping its clients abreast of developments that impact the insurance industry. The Property Insurance Law Observer will survey court decisions, enacted or proposed legislation, and regulatory activities from all 50 states. We will also include commentary on current issues and developing trends of interest to first-party insurers.
Stay Connected

Email:

Topics
Cozen O’Connor Blogs