SW Legal studies in Business

Pollution Exclusion Applies to Carbon Monoxide Release

Georgia high court held that a commercial general liability policy was clear in its definition of pollution damage excluded from coverage. Carbon monoxide is a pollutant, so the insurer did not have to defend the policy holder in suit for injury suffered due to the presence of the gas in a residence.

Topic Insurance
Key Words

Coverage; Commercial General Liability; Pollution Exclusion; Carbon Monoxide

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Reed sued her landlord, Waldrop, for carbon monoxide poisoning allegedly caused by his failure to maintain the house in good repair that she rented from him. Waldrop passed the claim on to his insurance carrier and claimed his commercial general liability (CGL) policy required the insurer to defend him in the matter. The insurer filed a complaint for declaratory judgment seeking a declaration of non-liability. The trial court denied the motion. Insurer appealed and the court of appeals reversed in favor of the insurer. That decision was appealed.


Affirmed. An insurer may agree to insure against certain risks while declining to insure against others. As with any contract, the court looks to the text of the insurance policy to determine how it applies. The CGL policy clearly excluded coverage for bodily injury caused by pollutants. Since the tenant, Reed, claimed injury by the release of carbon monoxide gas inside the house, the policy does not cover the matter. It states that pollutants are any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals, and waste. Carbon monoxide falls within that exclusion, so insurer has no duty to defend the matter for the landlord.

Citation Reed v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co., 667 S.E.2d 90 (Sup. Ct., Ga., 2008)

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