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Vol. 4, Iss. 12
December 16, 2015

Vermont Supreme Court: Pollution Exclusion Precludes Coverage For Bed Bugs’ Pesticide
The Vermont Supreme Court held in Whitney v. Vermont Mutual Ins. Co., No. 2015-073 (Vt. Dec. 11, 2015) that the Pollution Exclusion applied to a claim for “property damage” caused by the spraying of a pesticide in a home in an attempt to eradicate bed bugs: “The undisputed facts are that chlorpyrifos is: toxic to humans; can cause nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at very high exposures, respiratory paralysis and death; and is banned for residential use. Triple A’s use of chlorpyrifos in the Whitneys’ home violated EPA regulations, and federal and state law. The concentration levels of the substance in the Whitneys’ home were consistently high relative to the EPA ‘action level’ at which the EPA has determined that cleaning of housing units is required. As a result of the contamination, the Whitneys have been unable to live in their home. We do not find it hard to conclude that, in the context of this case, the terms ‘irritant,’ ‘contaminant,’ and ‘pollutant’ plainly and unambiguously encompass the chlorpyrifos sprayed ‘corner to corner, wall to wall’ throughout the Whitneys’ home. As we have previously noted, ‘we cannot deny the insurer the benefit of unambiguous provisions inserted into the policy for its benefit.’”

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