On October 19, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina held that a “hazardous materials” exclusion contained in a CGL policy did not preclude a duty to defend the insured against claims alleging bodily injury resulting from direct exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which are man-made chemicals within the group of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs).
In Colony Insurance Company v. Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, the insured was named a defendant in hundreds of underlying suits relating to its manufacture of fire equipment containing aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), a fire suppressant. The underlying plaintiffs alleged that: (a) the AFFF contained PFOS and PFOA; (b) PFOA and PFOS are highly carcinogenic; and (c) exposure to AFFF contained in the defendants’ products caused bodily injury or property damage. Around a third of the underlying complaints alleged harm from both direct exposure to the foam and exposure through the environment. Representative language from those complaints was: “[d]uring [underlying plaintiff’s] employment as a firefighter and firefighter instructor, he was significantly exposed to elevated levels of PFOS and PFOA in their concentrated form as a result of regular contact with [d]efendant’s AFFF products and through PFOS and PFOA having contaminated the FireCollege well system.”