Indoor air quality

June 7, 2013

Minnesota Supreme Court applies pollution exclusion to carbon monoxide

Source:, June 4, 2013
By: Brian Margolies, Traub Lieberman Strauss & Shrewsberry LLP

In its recent decision in Midwest Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Wolters, 2013 Minn. LEXIS 304 (Minn. May 31, 2013), the Minnesota Supreme Court had occasion to consider whether an absolute pollution exclusion applies to bodily injury resulting from an indoor release of carbon monoxide.

Wolters was a general contractor that had been hired to build a home with an in-floor radiant heating system. It was later determined that Wolters purchased and installed the wrong type of boiler for the project. Further, the boiler itself was negligently installed. As a result, and because the home’s carbon monoxide detectors also were negligently installed, the homeowners suffered injury as a result of severe carbon monoxide poisoning. The homeowners later filed suit against Wolters.

Midwest Family Mutual insured Wolters under a general liability policy. Midwest provided Wolters with defense in the underlying suit, but subsequently brought a coverage action seeking a declaration of non-coverage based on its policy’s pollution exclusion, which states in pertinent part:

9. We do not pay for bodily injury or property damage:

a. arising wholly or partially out of the actual, alleged or threatened discharge, dispersal, release or escape of pollutants: . . .

4) at or from any premises where you or any contractor or subcontractor, directly or indirectly under your control, are working or have completed work:

a) if the pollutant is on the premises in connection with such work, unless the bodily injury or property damages arise from the heat, smoke or fumes of a fire which becomes uncontrollable or breaks out from where it was intended to be; or

b) if the work in any way involves testing, monitoring, clean-up, containing, treating or removal of pollutants.…

December 14, 2012

Resurgent mold litigation in Sandy’s wake

Source:, December 1, 2012
By: William A. Ruskin, Epstein Becker Green

There is a significant risk that there will be a resurgence of mold claims and mold litigation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy left behind thousands of homes and offices in New York and New Jersey with flood-soaked flooring and sheet rock and water-damaged carpeting and personal belongings, which are all potential sources of mold if not removed and replaced. In addition to potential mold exposure to property owners and lessees, there is the potential occupational risk to the thousands of workers in the construction trades who are working to repair damaged homes and offices.

The most likely source of mold-related claims, however, will arise over disagreement concerning the scope of work of remediation contractors, construction companies and others involved in returning storm-ravaged communities to some semblance of normality. The contractor who replaces ruined sheet rock walls or wooden flooring, for example, may not be thinking about the water-soaked floor joists that may be a breeding ground for mold. The contractor who rebuilds an HVAC system may not feel responsible for sources of mold that may be spreading via that system.

Although certain affected surfaces may appear to recovered after being submerged under storm water for days, those surfaces may in fact be a breeding ground for mold. As much as possible, a building contractor should clarify with the client in writing what responsibility, if any, the building contractor has for addressing mold conditions, particularly those conditions that may be adjacent to area of new construction.

On November 30, 2012, WNYC broadcast a highly informative program on the Leonard Lopate Show titled, “Mold: Please Explain“, which can be downloaded from WNYC’s website. The guests on the program were Monona Rossol, an expert in environmental health and industrial hygeine, and Chin Yang, a microbiologist with Prestige EnviroMicrobiology. Ms. Rossol and Mr. Chin discussed what mold is, where it comes from, how it grows, what it can do to your home and health, and how to get rid of it. The listener Q&A following the initial presentation made clear that there are widespread misperceptions about mold and how to address it.…

January 27, 2011

IRONSHORE EDU – Site Pollution Incident Legal Liability Select (SPILLS)

Acknowledgement to Ironshore Environmental

Ironshore EDU is a comprehensive environmental insurance policy that assists schools in managing their environmental exposures in an affordable manner, thereby helping to control not only environmental liabilities but also school finances.


  • Mold:  Costly remediation of mold growth; associated bodily injury claims.
  • Contaminated drinking water:  Bodily injury claims related to drinking water, whether the drinking water wascontaminated on or offsite.  Remediation expenses to neutralize any contamination impacting the drinking water.
  • Caulk containing PCBs:  PCBs can be emitted into the air increasing the potential of bodily injury for those exposed. Thecaulk can also settle in soil outside of the school resulting in expensive soil excavation and removal.
  • Legionella:  Bodily injury claims related to drinking water or indoor air impacted by legionella.
  • Carbon monoxide:  Caused by machinery malfunctions, and can lead to serious bodily injury including death.
  • Storage tanks:  Releases of heating oil or fuel from underground or aboveground storage tanks may impact the Insured’s or neighboring properties, thereby necessitating remediation expenses or resulting in claims for bodily injury.
  • Indoor Air Quality:  Many of the above issues affect indoor air quality. Minors/students are often more susceptible to poor indoor air quality, and therefore are at greater risk of injury. Offsite industrial and commercial sites (gas stations, dry cleaners, etc.) can impact indoor air quality at schools due to releases of pollutants at these sites.
  • Defense:  Claims for environmental exposures can be costly, even when the Insured ultimately prevails on the merits.
December 10, 2010

Company to Pay $6M For Air Quality Violations

Click here to read about a Pennsylvania company that has been fined for air quality violations.…

December 10, 2010

Toxic schools: Mold, air quality spark thousands of complaints in Central Florida

Publication Date 10/17/2010
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)

Mold clung to the ceiling and left dark trails across the walls and floor. The teacher had already complained about the stench months before.

Stuff was even growing on desks.

Classroom 103 at Walker Middle School in Orlando had become a breeding ground for mold. When an inspector investigated last year, he found the humidity at about 86 percent.

And this was no isolated incident.

Moldy classrooms and other indoor-air-quality issues have sparked thousands of complaints from teachers and students during the past three years, an Orlando Sentinel investigation has found. Mold has infested walls and ceilings, ruined books and furniture and, in some cases, led to the wholesale evacuation of children from classrooms.…

September 3, 2010

Illegally Dumped Metals Cause Contamination

Acknowledgement to Great American

A dental practice operating within a large commercial/ residential condo building illegally dumped metals, including mercury, down various drains within their rented office unit for several years. The dumping was discovered during a routine state inspection and an environmental assessment company was hired by the building owner to assess the extent of the contamination.

An extensive remediation program was undertaken for two years which required the removal and replacement of a substantial amount of the buildings 1st floor plumbing. Additionally, indoor air quality sampling and testing was performed over this time period to assess the potential for mercury contamination within the entire habitational and non-habitational areas of the building. Since mercury was found throughout the building, many of the tenants filed suit against the dental practice and the building owner for 3rd party bodily injury due to exposure to volatilized mercury.…

September 2, 2010

Mold Discovered at Local College

Acknowledgement to Great American

A local college received several complaints from faculty and students about musty odors coming from the basement of a classroom building. Upon investigating and interviewing staff members, it was determined that a downward sloped walkway into the basement caused rainwater to leak into a service entrance. While the rainwater intrusion was reported to the maintenance department from time to time, no action was taken. Results of the investigation also showed that ventilation in the basement of the building was poor. The combination of rainwater intrusion and poor ventilation over the years caused extensive mold contamination which needed to be remediated.…

July 21, 2010

Firms Learn Pollution Coverage Essential to Construction Risk Management Toolbox

An excavation contractor purchased pollution coverage for $8,000. The driver for purchasing coverage was encountering pre-existing contamination in soil on a project and realizing that there was no coverage in their General Liability (GL) policy for this risk.

An electric contractor purchased pollution and professional coverage for $30,500. The reason for purchasing was a contractual requirement from their general contractor.

A general contractor purchased pollution and professional coverage for $49,500. Their need for this was realized when their mold claim was declined by their GL carrier due to the pollution exclusion.

A mechanical contractor purchased pollution and professional coverage for $27,000. They had a recent indoor air quality issue that opened their eyes to their exposures/liability.

A utility contractor purchased pollution coverage for $44,000. They cited that “the cost was worth protecting themselves against environmental exposures due to their large size and the number of active projects.”

An environmental contractor purchased pollution and professional coverage for $5,000. They realized the affordability of the coverage more than justified protecting themselves against professional exposures.

A construction manager purchased a project specific pollution policy for $45,000. They were required to buy 5/5 limits because of a contractual clause from the project owner.

A general contractor purchased pollution and professional liability coverage for $75,000. Purchase was driven by a new risk manager’s review of current insurance programs.…

July 21, 2010

US Green Building Standards Ignore Air Quality, Says Report

Building Design (06/10), Winston, Anna

A May report from Environmental & Human Health Inc. indicates that LEED-certified buildings may be contributing to toxic indoor environments, as the highest “platinum” rating can be achieved without credits for indoor air quality protection.  According to the report, LEED Certification: Where Energy Efficiency Collides With Human Health, “[The LEED Certification system conveys a] false impression of a healthy and safe building environment, even when well-recognized hazardous chemicals exist in building products.”  Yale University risk analysis and environmental policy professor John Wargo, who penned the report, notes that “tighter buildings often concentrate chemicals released from building materials, cleaning supplies, fuel combustion, pesticides and other hazardous substances.”…