Posted on 22 Dec 2008
Great American Insurance Co., a commercial lines specialty insurer, is denying payment of a claim saying that its policy's exempts it from owing damages to families of three people killed in a 2007 Houston office building fire.
Great American argues that its policy, which contains limits of $25 million, includes an "absolute pollution exclusion" that prohibits payout on a loss that arises from or is related to smoke, soot and fumes. Great American is asking the U.S. District Court in Houston to rule that the deaths caused by those elements not be covered by the policy.
A hearing on the matter will be held in February.
According to court documents, Cincinnati-based Great American provided the excess liability policy for defendant Boxer Property Management Corp. in excess of the primary liability policy issued to the property company by Lexington Insurance Co. Several underlying lawsuits for wrongful death, personal injury and property damage were filed against Houston-based Boxer Property Management, causing the company's excess liability coverage with Great American to be triggered.
A spokeswoman for Great American said that its policy "stands on its own merit" but would not elaborate further, saying the matter was still in litigation.
The case, Great American Insurance Co. vs. Boxer Property Management Corp., stems from a March 28, 2007, fire at a commercial building located in the North Loop in Houston. The fire was caused by Misty Ann Weaver, a nurse, who set fire to some paperwork that she had not completed and feared she might lose her job over.
Ms. Weaver pleaded guilty to three counts of felony murder and one count of first-degree arson and was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Oct. 27, 2008.