Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

 

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Catalog-Item Reuse

Is Skunk Spray Damage Covered Under a Homeowners Policy?

A skunk entered the basement of a house through a cat door and sprayed the area. Is animal spray excluded from homeowners coverage under the pollution exclusion?
Sponsored by
is skunk spray damage covered under a homeowners policy?

A skunk entered the basement of a house through a cat door and sprayed the area. The insurance company denied the cleanup of the spray saying the discharge from the skunk is a pollutant and is excluded in ISO's 2000 edition of the HO 005 10 00 under Section I - Perils Insured Against (e) 5.

The policy defines a pollutant as “any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals and waste." Section (e) 7 also excludes damage by “birds, vermin, rodents, or insects."

Q: Is animal spray excluded from coverage under the pollution exclusion?

Response 1: Historically, skunk spray has always been covered under the ISO homeowners policy, even the HO3. But that was up until the ISO revised the form in the 2011 edition. In the 2000 edition, the policy excludes:

(7) Birds, vermin, rodents, or insects

In 2011, the ISO replaced that exclusion by removing the word “vermin:"

(7) Birds, rodents or insects 

and added a new exclusion:

(8) Nesting or infestation, or discharge or release of waste products or secretions by any animals;

So, under the 2011 ISO policy (HO 00 05 05 11) skunk discharge is not covered. This was a huge removal of coverage under the homeowners policy. Not only for skunk discharge but any blood or urine from a deer or bear that may break into the insureds home. If those waste products or secretions were considered “pollution" there would have been no reason for ISO to change that language.

Tell your carrier that if they want to deny those claims, they had better adopt the 2011 edition of the ISO homeowners policy.

Response 2: Skunk spray seems to fit the definition of a pollutant, so on its face, the release of the nasty stuff would seem to be excluded under a plain English reading of the form. However, there may be case law in your state that distinguishes between skunk spray and pollutants. You may need to have an attorney or your state's insurance department check that for you. 

Response 3: Most carriers will cite the pollution exclusion for this type of claim. The definition of “pollutant" is “any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals and waste."

Courts have dealt with this exclusion for many years with varying results. Some courts have said the exclusion applies to industrial pollutants; others have said that bat guano is a pollutant. 

If you can get around the pollution exclusion, you run into the exclusion for damage caused by birds, vermin, rodents, or insects. A skunk is not a bird, rodent or insect, but is it a vermin? The policy doesn't define the term. 

The term “vermin" was removed in the 2011 homeowners edition, however, it added an exclusion for: “nesting or infestation, or discharge or release of waste products or secretions, by any animals."

This exclusion was probably added to address this type of claim. Unfortunately, the insured might have to take this to court and rely on a favorable ruling.

Response 4: Skunk spray, when naturally released by a skunk, wouldn't be considered a pollutant by many courts. The 2011 edition of ISO's Homeowners now excludes animal secretions which the skunk spray would likely be considered and consequently would no longer be covered. 

This question was originally submitted by an agent through the Big “I" Virtual University's (VU) Ask an Expert service, with responses curated from multiple VU faculty members. Answers to other coverage questions are available on the VU website. If you need help accessing the website, request login information.

This article is intended for general informational purposes only, and any opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s). The article is provided “as is" with no warranties or representations of any kind, and any liability is disclaimed that is in any way connected to reliance on or use of the information contained therein. The article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal or other professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for obtaining such advice. If specific expert advice is required or desired, the services of an appropriate, competent professional, such as an attorney or accountant, should be sought.

15985
Friday, October 29, 2021
Homeowners