Is asbestos an “irritant”?

The issue in Longhorn Gasket & Supply Co. v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co. was whether asbestos was within the scope of a pollution exclusion that applied to  “irritants, contaminants or pollutants.” Acknowledging a dearth of Texas case law on the subject, and lack of a clear trend in opinions nationally, the Fifth Circuit concluded that asbestos was an “irritant” under the commonly-accepted meaning of that term, and the underlying claims thus fell within the scope of the exclusion. The Court then held that because “[w]e have concluded that the pollution exclusion applies . . . the burden shifts to [the insured] to attempt to apply an exception to the exclusion”; in this case whether “such discharge, dispersal, release or escape is sudden and accidental.” No. 15-41625 (Aug. 18, 2017).

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