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Assicurazioni Generali, S.p.A. v. Neil

Citation: 29 ELR 20324
No. Nos. 97-2160, -2310, 160 F.3d 997/(4th Cir., 11/18/1998)

The court holds that the pollution exclusion clause in a former hotel owner's general liability insurance policy bars coverage of personal injury claims brought by hotel guests who suffered carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. The court first rejects the former owner's contention that the pollution exclusion clause eliminates coverage only for injuries resulting from environmental pollution and does not bar coverage for injuries arising from CO poisoning inside a hotel. The court then holds that even though the former owner no longer owned or controlled the hotel at the time of the CO poisoning, the pollution exclusion clause still applies to bar coverage. The natural reading of the pollution exclusion clause is that the exclusion includes, but is not limited to, an environment that is owned, controlled, or occupied by the insured.

The court next holds that the district court erred in finding that the Maryland Court of Appeals would decline to follow a similar case in which the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that a pollution exclusion barred coverage. The district court's reliance on the Maryland Court of Appeals' grant of certiorari in that case, which was withdrawn upon settlement, was misplaced. The Maryland Court of Appeals' decision to grant certiorari in a case does not constitute persuasive data that the high court would choose not to follow the decision of the intermediate appellate court in that case. In addition, the district court incorrectly determined that a Maryland Court of Appeals' decision holding that a pollution exclusion clause did not bar coverage led to the inescapable conclusion that the high court would reverse the Maryland Court of Special Appeals' decision if that decision were to reach it for review.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Edward J. Longosz II
Miles & Stockbridge
1751 Pinnacle Dr., Ste. 500, McLean VA 22102
(703) 903-9000

Counsel for Defendant
Gerald W. Ueckermann Jr.
O'Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore
P.O. Box 689, Greenbelt MD 20768
(301) 572-7900