The Ebola crisis has raised numerous issues worldwide. Many of the concerns sparked by the crisis – particularly in the insurance coverage context – are not unique to that disease, however. For example, coverage concerns relating to Ebola-related claims would be similar to those for many other disease-related claims. Many different types of insurance policies, including general liability policies, could be implicated by such claims.
For example if sued for an act or omission which results in a third party contracting Ebola, or some other disease, one’s general liability insurance policy may provide protection. Such policies typically provide coverage for, among other things, “Personal Injuries” (or “bodily injury”) caused by or arising out of an “occurrence.” An “occurrence” is typically defined to mean an “accident.” That said, careful attention should be paid to the language of the specific coverage grant and the definition of relevant terms in one’s particular general liability insurance policy.
Similarly, exclusions or other limitations contained in one’s policy may be extremely relevant. In particular, (i) pollution exclusions or (ii) mold, fungi, or bacteria exclusions may be impactful. And, the language of these exclusions is critical too. While at least one court, for example, had held that a pollution exclusion barred coverage for a bodily injury claim brought by an individual who contracted the Coxsackie virus from the policyholder’s swimming pool, another court, focusing in part on the placement of adjectives in the relevant exclusion, found that a pollution exclusion did not bar coverage for another claim brought by a third party who allegedly contracted Legionnaire’s disease from the policyholder’s spa tub. That court also found that a fungi or bacteria exclusion did not limit coverage for that claim.
Michael H. Sampson, who was recently spotlighted in Business Insurance discussing these issues in the context of Ebola, is a partner in the firm’s Insurance Recovery Group and a member of the firm’s Global Ebola Task Force. Caitlin Garber is an associate in the firm’s Insurance Recovery Group. If you have specific questions regarding your insurance coverage for Ebola-related risks, or risks relating to any other diseases, please contact Mike, Caitlin, or any member of the firm’s Insurance Recovery Group with whom you usually work.