Workers exposed to asbestos and producers of asbestos-containing products can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to a ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In Guaranty National Insurance Co. v. Azrock Industries Inc., the court on April 27 resolved a question of first impression that arises often in asbestos litigation: Should plaintiffs be deemed injured at the time they are allegedly exposed to asbestos or when they manifest an asbestos-related illness? The temporal issue involves millions of dollars of insurance coverage, since policies cover only those asbestos injuries that “occur” during a policy period.

A unanimous two-judge panel held that an injury occurs for coverage purposes when a worker is exposed to asbestos. The ruling will give plaintiffs and asbestos producers greater leeway in tapping insurers’ deep pockets.

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