Maryland Court Holds Out-of-State Insurance Policy Excluding Coverage for Lead Exposure Does Not Violate Public Policy

With the state’s abundance of older buildings and housing structures, many Maryland residents have suffered from exposure to lead-based paint. Some Maryland lead paint victims have pursued a negligence claim against their landlords and property owners to recover compensation for their injuries. A December 18, 2017 decision by the Court of Appeals of Maryland is relevant to consider when bringing a claim arising out of lead exposure, particularly against out-of-state insurance companies and property owners.

The matter was brought before the Maryland court by the U.S. District Court, before which was pending a lead paint case. The District Court sought an answer to the question of whether the pollution exclusion contained in the defendant’s Georgia insurance policy, which excluded coverage for bodily injuries resulting from the ingestion of lead-based paint, violated Maryland public policy.

The plaintiffs in the case had been exposed to lead-based paint at a property owned by the defendant in Maryland. The plaintiffs brought suit against the defendant and the defendant’s insurance company, claiming that the insurance company was obligated to indemnify the defendant. The insurance company contended that it was under no such obligation, since the defendant’s general liability insurance policy, which was purchased in Georgia, did not cover injuries resulting from pollutants such as lead-based paint. The plaintiffs argued that the exclusion, although valid under Georgia law, was against Maryland’s public policy and could not be enforced in the state.

Generally, when determining the validity and enforceability of an insurance policy contract, the court applies the law of the state where the contract was made. However, when a provision is contrary to a strong Maryland public policy, and it is not merely a situation in which the laws of the states are different, Maryland law will govern. The primary issue for the court, therefore, was whether Maryland had a strong public policy regarding pollution exclusion clauses that would impose its law over Georgia.

The demonstration of a strong public policy sufficient to warrant an exception to the application of another jurisdiction’s law is usually evinced by explicit legislative action. While the court agreed that Maryland had taken a strong approach in protecting children from poisoning by lead-based paint through legislation aimed at its abatement, it explained that Maryland’s policy was designed to protect victims by working to remove it from existing housing. The court also noted that the Maryland General Assembly has not expressly dictated that lead-based paint cannot be excluded from insurance policies as pollutants. As a result, the court concluded that Maryland’s public policy did not override the Georgia law permitting the insurance company to exclude coverage for lead-based paint.

If you need assertive legal representation against an insurance company, the skilled litigation team at Foran & Foran, P.A. can help.  Our Maryland injury attorneys have the resources and experience to advance your claim.  We represent plaintiffs in car accident cases, medical malpractice actions, and premises liability claims.  Schedule your free consultation by calling Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Allows Plaintiff to Proceed in Lead Paint Lawsuit Against Property Owner, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 20, 2016

Maryland Plaintiff Wins Appeal in Lead Paint Case as Court Reverses Summary Judgment Order, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 1, 2017

Contact Information