While liability for PFAS—Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, also known as “forever chemicals”—may be an emerging issue, the availability of insurance coverage for these and similar liability claims is not. “Commercial general liability,” or CGL, insurance was specifically designed to cover claims made by a company’s customers or customers of customers for resulting bodily injury and property damage. PFAS claims fit this bill. 

Though insurance companies have attempted to deflect from this intentionally broad coverage, CGL exclusions traditionally have been narrow. Even “pollution exclusions,” which have been raised by insurers facing PFAS claims, have limited scope. PFAS are products; and, thus, when drafting pollution exclusions, the insurance industry represented to regulators that they should apply only when (1) insurers can prove the policyholder expected or intended the alleged injuries and (2) only to true “industrial” pollution.
Continue Reading PFAS Product Liabilities and Defense Costs May Be Covered by Insurance

Last week, a New York federal court ruled that an insurer’s “exceedingly broad duty to defend the insured” extended to the policyholder’s indemnification of its landlords in an underlying tort claim. ConMed Corporation (“ConMed”), a medical technology company, filed suit against Federal Insurance Company (“Federal”), a division of Chubb, alleging that Federal breached the terms of its insurance contract when it refused to defend ConMed’s landlords in a Georgia lawsuit.

The coverage dispute stemmed from ConMed employees’ claims that they were exposed to unsafe levels of ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize ConMed’s equipment. Initially, the employees sued ConMed and its contractor that conducted the sterilization, but in April of 2021 the employees initiated a separate suit against ConMed’s landlords (“Landlord Action”). In the Landlord Action, plaintiff employees alleged negligence, aiding and abetting tortious conduct, fraud, wrongful death, and vicarious liability/respondeat superior claims, all stemming from their exposure to ethylene oxide. Pursuant to the lease agreement with ConMed, the landlords tendered the defense and indemnity of the Landlord Action to ConMed, which subsequently tendered the defense to Federal. Federal failed to accept defense of the Landlord Action, and ConMed filed suit.Continue Reading NY Federal Court Rules Insurer Must Cover Policyholder’s Landlords Under Lease Agreement’s Indemnity Provision

A Louisiana court recently denied an excess insurer’s bid for summary judgment, finding that the insurer’s interpretation of a pollution exclusion would lead to “absurd results.”
Continue Reading Louisiana Court Holds That Application of Pollution Exclusion Would Lead to Absurd Results

A Delaware court held that an appraisal action, which includes $39 million in attorneys’ fees, prejudgment interest, and costs incurred in defending litigation that arose out of Solera Holdings Inc.’s acquisition by Vista Equity Partners LP, constitutes a covered “securities claim” under Solera’s directors and officers liability insurance policy.
Continue Reading Delaware Court Says Appraisal Action Constitutes a “Securities Claim”; Triggers D&O Coverage

A District Court Judge for the District of Massachusetts recently ruled that Ace Property and Casualty Insurance Co. breached its duty to defend its insured in a lawsuit brought by Plaistow Project, LLC, after a family owned laundromat leaked chemicals onto Plaistow Project’s property. Plaistow Project, LLC v. ACE Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., No. 16-CV-11385-IT, 2018 WL 4357480, (D. Mass. Sept. 13, 2018). Plaistow Project sued State Line Laundry Services in state court, and ACE denied coverage under the pollution exclusion in State Line Laundry’s insurance policy. Plaistow Project then settled with State Line Laundry. Under the settlement terms, Plaistow Project was assigned State Line Laundry’s rights against ACE.
Continue Reading Massachusetts Judge Holds That Insurer Breached Its Duty To Defend Lawsuit After Chemical Spill

Earlier this month, the Washington Supreme Court reaffirmed coverage for injuries for carbon monoxide, holding that an insurer acted in bad faith when it improperly relied on an absolute pollution exclusion to deny coverage for a lawsuit involving alleged release of carbon monoxide gas inside a home.
Continue Reading Washington Supreme Court Refuses to Disturb Pro-Policyholder Pollution Exclusion Ruling Based on “Efficient Proximate Cause”

An article by Hunton lawyers Walter Andrews and Mike Levine, titled Insurance Planning for 2016: Top Ten Real Estate Liability Concerns, was recently published in the Spring 2016 issue of The Real Estate Finance Journal. The article addresses ten recurring liability concerns facing real estate professionals, investors, developers, lenders, owners and managers, and the