Asbestos Exclusion Language Clarified by Court

“Asbestosis Exclusions” in Insurance Policy Apply Only to Asbestosis, Not Other Asbestos Diseases

Insurance policies sold by Fireman’s Fund to copper mining company ASARCO LLC in the 1980s, contained a provision that excluded coverage for “asbestosis” claims. In a motion filed with the 105th District Court of Nueces County, Texas, ASARCO requested that the “asbestosis exclusion” refer specifically to claims related to asbestosis, and not to other asbestos diseases.

Fireman’s Fund argued that the “asbestosis exclusion” should apply to other asbestos diseases as well, including mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, and pleural plaques. District court Judge Manuel Banales disagreed with Fireman’s Fund–effectively narrowing the reach of the exclusion to the specific language of the policy.

Large Benefits for Policy Holders and Asbestos Claimants

This clarification of exclusion language sets a precedent that can be expected to apply to all insurance policies with similar asbestos disease exclusions. It will greatly simplify the process for claimants seeking coverage benefits for their asbestos-related disease. The ruling is particularly significant for ASARCO and is expected to affect more than 100,000 asbestos claimants.


ASARCO LLC filed for bankruptcy in 2005 after being sued for $1 billion over environmental cleanup and asbestos claims. Originally organized in 1899 as American Smelting and Refining Company, ASARCO has operated for over 106 years–most recently as a Tucson-based integrated copper mining, smelting, and refining company. ASARCO is one of the leading producers of copper and one of the largest nonferrous metal producers in the United States. Each year, they produce roughly 850 million pounds of copper, 330 million pounds of zinc and 20 million ounces of silver.

Case information: ASARCO LLC, et al. v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co., et al., No. 01-2680-D (105th Jud. Dist. Ct. Nueces County Tex. Mar. 11, 2009).