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Foremost Insurance Co. v. Rodriguez

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 11, 2019

FOREMOST INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
LUIS RODRIGUEZ, A MINOR BY MIGUEL A. RODRIGUEZ, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          Schiller, J.

         Luis, Daniel, and Miguel Rodriguez sued Tatiana and Vladimir Mechkova in state court after suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning on the Mechkovas' property. The Mechkovas requested a defense and indemnification from Foremost Insurance Company based on an insurance policy that covered bodily injuries caused by an accident on the premises.

         This declaratory judgment action filed by Foremost concerns whether a pollutant exclusion provision in the policy relieves it from defending against the Rodriguezes' lawsuit. Before the Court are motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim filed by the Mechkovas and the Rodriguezes. Because similar pollutant exclusion provisions have relieved insurers from defending against lawsuits for carbon monoxide-related injuries, Foremost has stated a claim for relief. Therefore, the Court will deny both motions to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Underlying State Court Lawsuit

         This action is related to a state court lawsuit that the Rodriguezes filed against the Mechkovas, their landlords. Miguel Rodriguez, father of minors Luis and Daniel, moved to the Mechkovas' property around June 2017. (Compl., Ex. A [State Court Compl.] ¶¶ 1-7, 21, 26.) When the Rodriguezes moved to the Mechkovas' property, they immediately experienced problems with the heating system, including a gas smell. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) To fix the problem, the Rodriguezes submitted maintenance requests to the Mechkovas. (Id. ¶ 35.)

         The Mechkovas refused to repair the heating system. (Id. ¶¶ 37-40.) In December 2017, the Rodriguezes “began feeling lightheaded, confused, and sick while in [the Mechkovas' property].” (Id. ¶ 42.) Due to their symptoms, the Rodriguezes went to the hospital via an ambulance. (Id. ¶ 44.) At the hospital, the Rodriguezes were admitted overnight and “diagnosed with having suffered from prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide and severe carbon monoxide poisoning.” (Id. ¶¶ 45-46.)

         After the hospital discharged the Rodriguezes, they returned to the Mechkovas' property and “determine[d] that the poisonous gases were leaking from appliances within [the property].” (Id. ¶¶ 48-49.) Following the incident, Philadelphia Gas Works visited the property, deemed the heater unsafe, and instructed the Mechkovas to replace the heater and gas lines within the property. (Id. ¶¶ 52-53.)

         As a result, the Rodriguezes asserted negligence claims against the Mechkovas in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. (Id. ¶¶ 63-72.)

         B. Mechkovas' Insurance Agreement

         The Mechkovas sought coverage from Foremost under a policy issued by Foremost to Tatiana Mechkova. (Compl. ¶ 10.) The policy provided that “[i]f a claim is made or a suit is brought against [the insured] for damages because of bodily injury or property damage caused by an accident on [the insured's] premises, ” Foremost would “[p]ay up to the Limit of Liability” and “[p]rovide a defense.” (Id., Ex. B, Form 11001 03/06 at 9.)

         The policy also provided, however, that Foremost would not pay for bodily injury or property damage “[a]rising out of the actual, alleged or threatened discharge, dispersal, release, escape of, or the ingestion, inhalation or absorption of pollutants.” (Id. at 10.) Under the policy, pollutant is defined as “any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals, metals, lead paint components and compounds, and waste. . . . However, irritants and contaminants released by accidental fire on [the insured's] premises are not a pollutant.” (Id. at 2.)

         Based on the pollutant exclusion provision, Foremost requests that the Court enter a judgment that it owes neither a duty to defend nor a duty to indemnify for the underlying state court lawsuit. The Rodriguezes and Mechkovas moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

         II. ...


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