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Deni Assocs. of Fla. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Ins. Co.

Citation: 28 ELR 21069
No. 89,115, -300, 711 So. 2d 1135/(Fla., 01/29/1998)

The court holds that a pollution exclusion clause in a comprehensive general liability (CGL) policy unambiguously excludes coverage of injuries arising from an accidental ammonia spill in an office building as well as injuries due to the aerial spraying of a chemical insecticide. The court first holds that the pollution exclusion clause is clear and unambiguous and cannot be limited to exclude only environmental or industrial pollution. The court is not free to rewrite the terms of the insurance contract when the contract is not ambiguous. Here, the claims against the companies fall well within the exclusion. Ammonia is regulated under the Clean Air Act as an extremely hazardous substance, and the chemical insecticide is a pollutant regulated under the Florida Pesticide Law. The court also holds that examining the history of the pollution exclusion would be contrary to Florida law because the clause's language is clear and unambiguous. The court then declines to adopt the doctrine of reasonable expectations in the interpretation of the CGL policies. There is no need for the doctrine if the policy provisions are ambiguous because in Florida ambiguities are construed against the insurer. And to apply the doctrine to an unambiguous provision would be to rewrite the contract and the basis on which the premiums are charged.

Counsel for Petitioner
Walter G. Campbell Jr.
Krupnick & Campbell
700 SE Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale FL 33316
(954) 763-8181

Counsel for Respondent
Elizabeth K. Russo
Elizabeth K. Russo & Associates
Terremark Ctr.
2601 S. Bayshore Dr., Ste. 2001, Miami FL 33133
(305) 859-8100

Before Kogan, Shaw, Harding, and Anstead, JJ.