Georgia Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Smith

784 S.E.2d 422 (2016)

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Georgia Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Smith

Georgia Supreme Court
784 S.E.2d 422 (2016)

  • Written by Rose VanHofwegen, JD

Facts

Amy Smith (defendant) sued her landlord, Bobby Chupp (defendant), for injuries her daughter allegedly sustained from ingesting lead-based paint in the home she rented. Chupp insured the house under a commercial general-liability insurance policy (CGL) issued by the Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (GFB) (plaintiff). After Chupp notified GFB of Smith’s claims and requested that it defend him, GFB filed a declaratory action against both Chupp and Smith asserting that the policy did not cover the child’s lead-poisoning injuries and that it had no duty to defend Chupp against Smith’s claims as a result. GFB claimed that the policy’s pollution-exclusion clause excluded lead poisoning from coverage. Specifically, the policy excepted injuries from a pollutant, defined as “any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals and waste.” The trial court concluded that lead-based paint clearly qualified as a pollutant within the exclusion and granted summary judgment for GFB. Both Smith and Chupp appealed. The appellate court reversed, reasoning that an earlier case finding carbon-monoxide gas qualified as a pollutant under identical language did not necessarily imply the language was broad enough to cover lead-based paint. Instead, the appellate court found that as the drafter of the policy, the insurer had to specifically except lead-based paint from coverage to exclude it. GFB appealed, and the Georgia Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Thompson, C.J.)

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