Acuity v. Chartis Specialty Insurance Company
The case arose out of a natural gas explosion which destroyed a church and damaged a number of buildings in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Acuity’s insured, an excavation contractor, was alleged to have ruptured the natural gas line that led to the explosion. Acuity defended and indemnified its insured under a commercial general liability policy issued to its insured, which did not contain an absolute pollution exclusion. The excavation contractor was also insured under a contractor’s pollution liability policy issued by Chartis. The trial court agreed with Acuity that natural gas constituted “pollution conditions” as defined in the Chartis policy and required Chartis to reimburse Acuity for one half of the defense and indemnity costs Acuity had paid on behalf of the excavation contractor. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals unanimously reversed. The Wisconsin Supreme Court then unanimously reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision, finding that, in the circumstances of the case, natural gas was an “irritant or contaminant” under the definition of “pollution conditions” in the Chartis policy and Chartis was required to reimburse Acuity as ordered by the trial court.