North Carolina Federal Court Holds “Hazardous Materials” Exclusion Does Not Bar Duty to Defend Under CGL Policy for Bodily Injury Claims Arising Out of Direct Exposure to PFAs

Construction worker next to pipeline

Attorney Paul A. Briganti discusses Colony Insurance Company v. Buckeye Fire Equipment Company.

December 7, 2020
Paul A. Briganti - White and Williams LLP

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).[1]

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.[2] 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.”

Mr. Briganti may be contacted at brigantip@whiteandwilliams.com



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