Insureds don’t need to be involved in exceptionally risky work, or be unique to have environmental exposures. Most businesses, contactors, and consultants perform work that could trigger a pollution event – all it takes is one unfortunate incident to result in a claim. Make sure your clients have the right coverage in the event of a loss.
A group of friends were at golf course, enjoying cigars and playing a round of golf. One of the players set his cigar down on the ground to tee off; after he picked it up and continued smoking it, he had a fatal allergic reaction to a chemical being used to treat the grass. The golf course was sued for damages.
What to learn from this: Businesses have no control over how sensitive people may be to the products or chemicals they use, even if they are seemingly non-toxic or “routine.”
A computer error that recorded an open valve as closed caused a paper mill to release thousands of pounds of chlorine gas into the atmosphere. The leak was detected only after several employees and local residents became ill. These same employees and residents later sued the mill for more than $1 million.
What to learn from this: Nearly all businesses rely on complex systems to keep their processes running smoothly. When those systems fail, catastrophic environmental losses can occur.
A pool contractor inadvertently added too much chlorine to a neighborhood pool, causing skin and eye irritations and hair loss in many of the people who were swimming. Several people filed suit against the pool maintenance company to pay for damages and distress.
What to learn from this: Just one mistake from an improperly trained or distracted employee can result in an environmental incident, causing BI and PD.
A residential contractor renovated the interior of a residential house built in the 1950s. The renovation involved paint removal from interior walls, window trim, and door jambs. During the course of renovation, the contractor used a plastic barrier to seal the areas where he was working. The homeowners continued to occupy the house during renovations. Additionally, the wife was six months pregnant. Renovation was finished prior to the birth of the baby; however, upon birth, the child tested positive for blood lead poisoning. After investigating the source of the lead, the couple sued the contractor for bodily injury as well as potential loss of future wage potential, due to a possible decreased IQ level for the baby, in the amount of $500,000.
What to learn from this: Having the correct environmental coverage is crucial, no matter how simple the job seems, or whether it is required by contract or not.
A subcontractor working for a street/road contractor performed abrasive sandblasting on a bridge. The bridge was located near a residential area. Lead paint chips and dust from the sandblasting became airborne and migrated onto residential properties, requiring cleanup. The residents filed property damage claims against the street/road contractor for the dust generated by the subcontractor. The claims totaled $400,000.
What to learn from this: Even a location that is completely unrelated to an area being repaired or remediated may be affected by the activity, causing harm to people or property.