Now this is a long, but prescient, post for anyone that owns any property with asbestos in Ontario in 2011.
Property owners simply can’t afford not to know how asbestos affects their insurance. Recent court decisions have backed up, with case law, a clause found in all insurance polices that, almost to a person, property owners are totally unaware of, the “Asbestos Exclusion.”
Every insurance policy of every stripe has “exclusions” which are conditions or circumstances listed that are not covered by the policy. These exclusions exist to prevent catastrophic losses for the insurer, underwriter (the insurance company for your insurance company) and resulting dramatic rises in premiums for policy holders.
Exclusions often come about because of an event. For example after 911 the “terrorism exclusion” became common in insurance policies. The epidemic of marijuana grow ops in recent years has led to a “marijuana exclusion.” Ditto for asbestos after the asbestos scare of the 1970’s and resulting wave of associated deaths and lawsuits, which by the way continue today, “asbestos exclusions” became par for the course.
This is probably leaving you, the home, property or business owner wondering what does this mean and how does it affect me and my insurance?
Well the recent 2010 court ruling, 1604945 vs. Lloyds Underwriters, made it very clear what the term “asbestos exclusion” means and how it affects them.
In the case a Landlord had some renovation work done in their property. This work disturbed some asbestos present in the building and resulted in two lawsuits from two tenants, one claiming destruction of property, and the other future adverse health effects. The landlord, plaintiff, called upon their insurance company to defend them against these law suits which the defendant, their insurance company, flatly refused to do citing an “asbestos exclusion” in the policy. The landlord sued, for not, claiming the insurance company had a “duty to defend” as per the contract of the insurance policy.
The legal wrangling went on to the highest court of Ontario the end result:
“The Ontario Superior Court of Justice holds that there is no duty to defend where an absolute asbestos exclusion applies.”
The property owner’s lawsuit was dismissed outright. They were left to defend these lawsuits on their own dime.
To home and other property owners this means that any legal action or claim made against you, your insurance or any other insurance company for that matter the “asbestos exclusion” will negate any and all protection your insurance might offer.
The following scenarios should worry any home owner with any asbestos present in the home.
Scenario 1: You have a fire in your house with John Mansfield asbestos siding, no problem you’re insured right? Wrong, this is an environmental clean up not a fire restoration. The “asbestos exclusion” clause in your insurance policy leaves you, excuse the pun, “burnt out.”
Scenario 2: Hire a contractor to do some work and they unknowingly disturb some asbestos wrapped around the hot water heating pipes in the basement, no problem you’re insurance will clean it up and sue theirs to settle the bill , all is good, right? Wrong! Both yours and their insurance companies will again excuse the pun the sidestep and “exclude” themselves leaving you and your contractor to do the lawsuit tango.
I can think of dozens more scenarios but I think you get the point.
No matter the scenario with asbestos in your property, sue or be sued, you, will have no protection from your insurance policy. Get out your wallet. Like many law suits, this could be a battle of wills and wallets. Kind of defeats the purpose of insurance, doesn’t it?
Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone say “it’s fine if undisturbed.” Just remember in 2011 Ontario asbestos is anything but fine it can not only kill you but ruin you financially as well.
Don’t believe me or the Ontario Court of Justice ruling? Still think asbestos is fine? Call your insurance agent and ask about the meaning of the “asbestos exclusion” clause in your policy. After that conversation I’m sure you’ll be anything but “fine” with asbestos.
Furthermore, if the present reality of asbestos and your home doesn’t appeal to you, just wait until future developments start to take shape. More on that next time.