Court Upholds Lawsuit Over Carbon Monoxide Death

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An insurance company has a duty to defend an apartment complex against claims after a renter died of carbon monoxide fumes, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Lisa Anderson, who died in 1997, inhaled the fumes from a faulty heating unit in her Cuyahoga County apartment complex.

Her estate filed a wrongful death claim against Highland House Apartments and its management company, Renaissance Management, which then sued Indiana Insurance Company, seeking coverage.

Indiana Insurance unsuccessfully argued that an exemption for pollution damage in the insurance policy therefore excluded claims for carbon monoxide injuries or deaths.

The high court ruling was 5-2.

"Based on the history and original purposes for the pollution exclusion, it was reasonable for Highland House and RMI to believe that the policies purchased for their multiunit complex would not exclude claims for injuries due to carbon monoxide leaks," Justice Alice Robie Resnick wrote for the majority.

Justice Deborah Cook and Chief Justice Thomas Moyer disagreed.

Carbon monoxide falls within the definition of a "pollutant" and therefore "the policies clearly exclude coverage," Cook wrote.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)