Asbestos lawsuits across the United States could be affected by the ruling of a Corpus Christi judge’s interpretation of an insurance clause. The result could mean thousands of dollars in insurance claims would have to be paid to those suffering from asbestos-related diseases.
Fireman’s Insurance Fund had a contract with the mining company Asarco that did not cover asbestos is, a scarring of the lungs caused by asbestos. Asarco, a company in bankruptcy, wanted its insurer to cover mesothelioma and lung cancer, as well as other asbestos-related diseases, but Fireman’s Insurance Fund claimed that all asbestos-related diseases were precluded from coverage under the asbestosis clause.
The 105th District Court Judge J. Manuel Bañales ruled that the asbestosis clause did not include other diseases caused by asbestos exposure. Such a ruling would mean that Fireman’s Insurance Fund would have to pay the claims against Asarco for diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.
While asbestosis is not itself fatal, it is often seen in patients who go on to develop more severe diseases years before a cancer diagnosis. It can take decades before cancer develops, but once a disease such as lung cancer or mesothelioma manifests, the victim is often only given months to live. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma are difficult to treat, and there is no effective treatment for mesothelioma.
The impact across the nation was not lost on Asarco attorney Rhonda Orin, who said, “This issue repeats itself all over the country, and these cases are watched all over the country.”
After this ruling, only time will tell whether similar cases will mirror the ruling of Judge Bañales. If such occurs, the amounts that insurance companies will have to pay for asbestos related claims will drastically increase, but it will also mean that plaintiffs will be more likely to be compensated for their fatal illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos.