The UK Supreme Court has today delivered a ruling which could allow thousands of insurance claims by families of people who died after exposure to asbestos.
Swindon solicitor Brigitte Chandler, from the law firm Charles Lucas & Marshall and one of the UK’s leading experts on asbestos law, welcomed the decision.
She said: “This is very good news indeed for people who develop asbestos disease and their families.”
The court placed insurance liability at the time an employee was exposed to asbestos,rather than the time symptoms appeared. Relatives of workers who died of the cancer mesothelioma want to make claims on policies, some of which date back to the 1940s.
And the decision overturns an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal which indicated that in some cases the insurance policy which is in place when the illness starts should pay the claim.
Brigitte Chandler added: “The insurers have been trying to argue that the liability should remain with the company in place at the time the illness develops. The problem with this is that most people were exposed to asbestos up to 40, 50 or 60 years ago.
“Many companies who exposed their employees are no longer in existence and the insurance policies have been lost. This means that if the Supreme Court had not given their ruling, many people would no longer have been able to get compensation as there would have been no company and no insurers to pay them.
“The insurers were paid to provide employer liability cover under statutory regulations and as they were paid to cover this liability, it is only right that they should now have to pay.
“It is good to see such a common sense decision by the Supreme Court . Many people have been waiting for several years for compensation and will now finally receive the monies due to them.”
The Supreme Court was asked to rule after judges in lower courts failed to agree. Families had a success in 2008, when the High Court said firms’ insurers at the time workers inhaled fibres were liable.
But two years later the Court of Appeal said that in some cases liability was triggered when symptoms developed – which could be decades after exposure.
The new ruling by a panel of five Supreme Court justices states that the disease can be said to have been “sustained” by an employee in the period when it was caused or initiated.
For further information contact Brigitte Chandler on 01793-511055 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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