The Nevada Supreme Court will be reviewing a case stemming from an incident where four guests of a motel died of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Courthouse News Service. They were killed at the Casino West Motel in Yerington, Nev., in 2006 when fatal fumes from a pool heater filtered into their rooms, whose airways were blocked.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/04/06/45417.htm

Two questions stemming from an insurance dispute over the accident Friday were certified by the 9th Circuit to go to the high court, Courthouse News Service reported.

The survivors of the four people killed sued, but the motel’s insurer, Century Surety Co., said it was not liable under its policy’s “pollution and indoor-air-quality exclusions,” according to the news service.

Those exclusions deny coverage for accidental injury or death that results from “smoke, fumes, vapor or soot from equipment used to heat the building” and “toxic, hazardous, noxious, irritating, pathogenic or allergen qualities or characteristics of indoor air regardless of cause,” Courthouse News Service reported.

Century had gone to federal court in Reno seeking a ruling that it wasn’t bound to indemnify Casino West Motel in any wrongful-death litigation from the accident. The motel accused the insurer of bad faith, and the court ruled in its favor, according to Courthouse News Service.

That court at first prevented Century from going to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, but relented. On Friday, the appellate panel said it would not rule until the Nevada Supreme Court made a determination on Century’s policy exclusions.

In its order, quoted by the news service, the three-judge appeals panel said that Nevada, home of a huge hotel industry, has not “expressly decided the scope of the pollution exclusion.”

“Casino West contends that the fact that so many courts have reached different opinions conclusively establishes the exclusion as ambiguous,” the order states, according to Courthouse News Service.

“However, Casino West has not cited any Nevada cases so holding, and we have not found any on our own. Given the magnitude of the hotel industry in Nevada, we believe the question of the ambiguity of this standard insurance exclusion is one of exceptional importance to Nevada insurers and insureds.”

There are two questions of law that need to be answered: “Does the pollution exclusion in Century’s insurance policy exclude coverage of claims arising from carbon monoxide exposure?” and  “Does the indoor air quality exclusion in Century’s insurance policy exclude coverage of claims arising from carbon monoxide exposure?”

Courthouse News Service also provided this text from the 9th Circuit order.

“These questions are determinative in this case,” the order states. “If both exclusions are ambiguous, as the district court found, then Casino West’s claims would be covered by Century. However, if one or both of the exclusions is unambiguous, then the opposite result would occur and Century would have no duty to defend or indemnify Casino West with regard to the wrongful death suits.”

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