Environmental Insurance Coverage and COVID-19

As many businesses face closures pursuant to governmental directives designed to combat the spread of COVID-19, such closures may trigger claims under property and comprehensive general liability policies.   Companies that have purchased pollution legal liability (PLL) insurance also should examine whether their PLL policies provide coverage for business interruption and other losses arising from COVID-19.  The language of the base policy and endorsements should be examined to determine:

  • Whether the policy’s definition of pollution condition is broad enough to encompass infectious and/or microbial material at the insured location (many courts are inclined to construe ambiguity in favor of the insured).
  • Whether the policy expressly excludes losses arising from infectious and/or microbial material (policy exclusions for human-to-human exposure could be read narrowly because COVID-19 is transmitted via building surfaces).
  • Whether the policy covers efforts to disinfect or decontaminate the insured location.
  • Whether the policy covers business interruption arising from governmental closure orders issued to prevent exposure to COVID-19 on building surfaces.
  • Whether the policy contains any other exclusions or limitations that could impact coverage.

If the PLL policy arguably provides coverage, carriers should be placed on notice of the loss as soon as practicable. Initial notices can be supplemented as additional information becomes available in this rapidly developing situation.  SPR lawyers have longstanding experience in interpreting PLL policies and can assist with assessing policy coverage as well as with the process of putting carriers on notice of potential losses.