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Pollution Exclusion in CGL Policies: Clarifying the Exclusion to Avoid Litigation and Coverage Gaps

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will guide insurance counsel through the many different forms of "pollution exclusion" clauses in commercial general liability (CGL) policies, explore why they exclude many types of losses not caused by hazardous materials, review differing court interpretations of the exclusion, and offer best arguments for insurers and policyholders for either avoiding or maximizing coverage.


The pollution exclusion likely qualifies as the most misapplied and misunderstood exclusion within the CGL policy by courts, policyholders, and insurers. Errors in application of the pollution exclusion are varied, ranging from a failure to grasp the injury or damage's true proximate cause to an improper interpretation of the pollution exclusion itself. Courts further contribute to this misunderstanding through inconsistent rulings across jurisdictions.

The pollution exclusion in CGL policies is a heavily litigated issue in environmental coverage claims. Courts wrestle with the distinctions between traditional and nontraditional pollution, with no consensus on whether the total pollution exclusion applies to nontraditional pollution.

Case law on the pollution exclusion covers the spectrum. Recent cases attempting to stretch or narrow coverage have generated novel arguments, some of which have been successful depending on the wording of the exclusion and how it must be read with other exclusions in the policy.

Listen as our authoritative panel of practitioners discusses the scope of the pollution exclusion in CGL policies, the most recent case law developments, and perspectives for both insurers and policyholders arguing the applicability of the exclusion.



  1. Pollution exclusion provision language
  2. Traditional pollution vs. nontraditional pollution
  3. Recent case law developments


The panel will review these and other significant questions:

  • How do courts make the distinction between traditional and nontraditional sources of pollution?
  • What are the most recent developments in applying the pollution exclusion to damages?


Healy, Daniel
Daniel J. Healy

Anderson Kill

Mr. Healy represents policyholders seeking insurance coverage, and is Deputy Co-Chair of the Cyber Insurance Recovery...  |  Read More

Sereda, Melissa
Melissa A. Sereda


Ms. Sereda is an associate whose practice focuses on serving as coverage and litigation counsel to primary and excess...  |  Read More

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