Court says asbestos removal is act of pollution and excluded from insurance coverage.

Villa Los Alamos Homeowners Ass’n v. State Farm General Insurance Co., 198 Cal.App.4th 522 (2011) (Aug. 18, 2011)

Asbestos removal is excluded from insurance coverage.

The homeowner’s association contracted to have acoustical ceilings removed which they knew contained asbestos. The contractor removed the ceiling and disturbed the asbestos. The air board cited the association and ordered abatement of the asbestos. The association sought coverage under its property insurance.

The trial court ruled in favor of the insure, and the Court of Appeal affirmed. Asbestos is commonly known to be a toxic substance which is subject to the policy exclusion. The association tried to describe the release of asbestos as negligence and to avoid the exclusion. The Court concluded there are myriad laws regulating asbestos and its removal would not constitute negligence.

The association had tried to develop its argument to fit the language used by the California Supreme Court in MacKinnon v. Truck Ins. Exch., 31 Cal.4th 635 (2003). There, the Court held that ordinary but negligent application of a household pesticide was not a typical act of pollution and did not fit within a pollution exclusion.


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