Legislation & Litigation

UK Supreme Court: Asbestos Victims Should Receive Compensation from Insurers

Written By:
March 28, 2012
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Written By: Mark Hall,
March 28, 2012

Insurance companies should provide compensation to victims of asbestos exposure, according to a recent ruling by the UK Supreme Court.

The ruling came after the judges concluded that employer’s liability insurance is triggered at the time that workers were exposed to asbestos, not when the development of asbestos-related diseases occurred. Therefore, compensation should be provided based on the time of exposure.

Asbestos is a dangerous material found in thousands of products and is used for its insulating and heat-resistant characteristics. Occupational exposure to it is more common among industrial workers, like manufacturers, construction workers or engineers.

The in the case victims developed mesothelioma, which is a rare cancer of the lining of the lungs. This disease often takes 20 to 50 years after initial asbestos exposure.

Case Details

This case was appealed by insurance companies back in 2010.

Since 2006, a group of companies, local governments and individuals has been fighting for legal authority to force four insurers to be obligated to pay compensation for asbestos exposure. Today, some of the insurance companies have been said to be insolvent.

“It would be remarkable if the insurers were not liable under the policies,” said Justice Jonathan Mance, one of the five justices who decided the case.

The other four judges included Lord Phillips (President), Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke and Lord Dyson.

Lawyers for the insurance companies appear understanding to the concerns of the victims.

“The result will be a relief to thousands of disease victims and their families,” [whose insurance claims have been on hold because of the litigation], said Leon Taylor, who is a lawyer at DLA Piper LLP, the firm that represents two of the insurers.

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