A Philadelphia judge has ruled that an insurer had no statutory or contractual duty to warn its insureds that their... READ MORE »
Insurer and Environmental Consultant Have No Duty To Warn of Mold
A tornado tore the roof of Haney's house. Haney hired a contractor to repair the damage and filed a claim for damages with his homeowner's insurer. Before the repairs were completed, rains further damaged the house.
The insurer, Fire Insurance Exchange (FIE), hired an environmental consultant to perform an environmental study. The findings by the consultant were that "dangerous and toxic airborne mold and fungal spores … in concentrations posing a health risk to humans" existed in the house. The consultant provided this report to the claims adjuster as well as a second report, which stated that the molds could produce mycotoxins "which could be poisonous to individuals if inhaled."
FIE did not warn the contractors working for homeowner about the mold that had been discovered in the house or about the risks the mold could pose. Several employees of the contractor subsequently filed suit against FIE, the claims adjuster, and the environmental consulting firm, alleging that they had sustained personal injuries due to mold exposure. The trial court dismissed all the claims. That decision was affirmed on appeal.
Building Owner Not Barred by "Waiver of Subrogation" Clause from Seeking Damages Against Contractors for Diesel Leak Harming "Nonwork" Property
In Allen Cnty. Pub. Library v. Shambaugh & Son LP, 997 N.E.2d 48 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), an Indiana appeals court found that a library could pursue damages against its construction contractors for a diesel leak, despite a standard American Institute of Architects (AIA) waiver of subrogation clause in the contract. The installation of a leaking diesel tank in the basement of the library caused extensive damage to the ground surrounding the building, which the court characterized as damage outside of the project's construction and services (or using the AIA terms of art, damage to "nonwork" as opposed to "work").
The court found that the waiver of subrogation clause only applied to insurance coverage for the work, as opposed to damages for nonwork. Accordingly, the library was not contractually barred from seeking recovery from the contractors for the pollution remediation, which the court reasoned was appropriate based on the balancing of insurance responsibilities under the contract.
Chemical Spill in West Virginia: Where Does Liability Stop When Contamination Rolls Downhill?
According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, there are 14,000 chemical and oil spills a year in the United States, ranging from a few gallons to thousands of barrels. These spills take place at fixed sites, from pipelines, and from other modes of transportation including trucks and railcars. Given that there are about 40 spills a day, it is only a matter of time until a release takes place that has truly catastrophic consequences.
The recent contamination of the water supply system in Charleston, West Virginia, and the 9 counties surrounding it disrupted the lives of 300,000 people for more than 5 days. Fortunately, the amount of chemicals spilled into the water supply was relatively small.
Incidents like this raise questions about the hazards of storing, using, and transporting toxic materials in urban areas and the vulnerability of contaminating water supplies in US cities through accidental releases of pollutants.