A Michigan USA court has held that the smoke from an apartment fire that caused injuries to other tenants did not constitute a pollutant for the purposes of a pollution exclusion in a commercial general liability policy.

The plaintiffs’ claims for their injuries did not relate to injuries “that were caused in whole or in part by the discharge, dispersal, release, seepage, migration or escape of a pollutant”. It is not possible to separate the smoke from the fire and the pollution exclusion could not exclude a claim which was in fact a fire claim. The plaintiffs were injured by fire and the smoke that engulfed them. It did not pollute them.

The case is Charlie B. Hobson v Indian Harbor Insurance Co, et al. The appeal court upheld the decision.