Is The Absolute Pollution Exclusion Absolute? It Depends On Which State Answers the Question

The battle over the scope of the absolute pollution exclusion in general liability policies continues to be fought in the context of defective drywall manufactured in China.  An earlier blog entry discussed a Virginia court that had concluded that there was no coverage for defective drywall claims, rejecting decisions from a number of states that had ruled that the absolute pollution exclusion should be limited to industrial pollution claims, particularly Superfund claims.

In Probuild Holdings, Inc. v. Travelers Property Casualty Company of America, a Colorado court relying on Massachusetts and Florida law recently took the other side from the Virginia court.  The Colorado court denied a summary judgment motion by an insurer in a defective drywall claim.  Citing the Massachusetts case that suggested that the absolute pollution exclusion should be limited to industrial pollution claims, particularly Superfund claims, and not defective product claims involving residential properties, the court concluded that the meaning of the exclusion was at best ambiguous and ambiguity would typically be construed against the insurer.  Although suggesting that the policyholder appeared at summary judgment to have the stronger position, the Colorado court left for trial the final resolution.

For the moment at least, the scope of the absolute pollution exclusion depends on which jurisdiction’s law applies.

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