Georgia: Lead Paint Claims Barred by CGL Pollution Exclusion

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GEORGIA, May 26 – The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that a CGL policy pollution exclusion bars coverage for claims against the insured landlord for injuries resulting from  lead paint ingestion.

In Georgia Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Smith, 784 S.E.2d 422 (Ga. 2016) the insurer sought a declaratory judgment that it did not owe defense or indemnity to its insured landlord in an underlying suit against the landlord by a tenant who claims she sustained as a result of ingesting lead paint in a rental home.   Georgia Farm Bureau relied on an absolute pollution exclusion in the policy.  The exclusion by its terms did not cover injury “arising out of the actual, alleged or threatened discharge, dispersal, seepage, migration, release or escape of ‘pollutants.’”  The policy defined “pollutants” as “any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals and waste.”

The insurer won summary judgment on the exclusion at the trial court level, the court holding that lead-based paint was unambiguously a “pollutant” as defined in the policy.  An appeals court reversed, observing a split in jurisdictions, noting that some jurisdictions applied the exclusion only in instances of “industrial pollution.” The insurer appealed.

The Georgia Supreme Court reversed, finding that the absolute pollution exclusion applied from injury arising from exposure to lead-based paint.

Georgia Farm Bureau Ins. v. Smith et. al., 784 S.E.2d 422 (Ga. 2016)

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Author: CJ Haddick

C.J. Haddick is a Director with the law firm of Dickie, McCamey, & Chilcote, PC, based in Pittsburgh, Pa. He has advised and represented insurers in insurance coverage and bad faith litigation for more than a quarter of a century, and written and spoken throughout the United States on insurance coverage and bad faith prevention and litigation. He is Managing Director of the firm's Harrisburg, Pa. office. Reach him at chaddick@dmclaw.com or 717-731-4800.

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