December 22, 2017
Washington, DC attorneys Mary S. Diemer and Robert L. Hoegle represented Liberty Mutual in a Maryland dispute over insurance coverage for underlying lawsuits brought by plaintiffs who allegedly suffered permanent brain damage and elevated blood lead levels due to lead-based paint exposure in a house owned by Liberty Mutual’s insured, the Salvation Army. The plaintiffs claimed that Liberty Mutual had a duty to defend and indemnify the Salvation Army for their damages. Liberty Mutual, however, had denied coverage because the plaintiffs’ claims were barred under Georgia law by the pollution exclusion in the insurance policy, which was issued in Georgia, while the plaintiffs argued that Maryland's strong public policy in favor of protecting victims of lead paint poisoning should negate the application of Georgia law. The Maryland Court of Appeals agreed with Liberty Mutual, ruling that because the insurance policies were issued in Georgia, that state’s interpretation of a general pollution exclusion to exclude lead paint claims controls. Consequently, notwithstanding a contrary interpretation by Maryland courts, the exclusion bars coverage for any lead paint-related claims.
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