Pollution Exclusion In An Insurance Policy Cases

In American States Insurance Co. v. Koloms, 177 Ill. 2d 473, 227 Ill. Dec. 149, 687 N.E.2d 72 (1997), the insured sought coverage for injuries caused by carbon monoxide fumes emitted from a building's faulty furnace. Koloms, 177 Ill. 2d at 476. The insurer argued that the carbon monoxide fumes were a pollutant and, thus, excluded from coverage under the absolute pollution exclusion in the policy. Koloms, 177 Ill. 2d at 476-77. The absolute pollution exclusion in Koloms, like the exclusion at issue here, stated it eliminated coverage for property damage arising out of "'actual, alleged or threatened discharge, dispersal, release or escape of any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals and waste.'" Koloms, 177 Ill. 2d at 487. The supreme court noted several recent opinions criticizing the absolute pollution exclusions's broad definition of a pollutant as an irritant or contaminant." Koloms, 177 Ill. 2d at 484. The court cited the federal district court's opinion in Westchester Fire Insurance Co. v. City of Pittsburg, 768 F. Supp. 1463, 1470 (D. Kan. 1991), aff'd, 987 F.2d 1516 (10th Cir. 1993), which criticized the exclusion's seemingly unlimited reach and noted that "there is virtually no substance or chemical in existence that would not irritate or damage some person or property." Kolams, 177 Ill. 2d at 484.