Asbestos ruling will be challenged

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Asbestos ruling will be challenged

Monday 01 November 2010 by Will Stone

A ruling that could deny compensation to thousands of asbestos cancer victims will be challenged at the Supreme Court

Public-sector union Unite confirmed today it will fight back against a landmark Court of Appeal decision last month that could relieve employers’ insurers of liability from asbestos-related deaths.

It ruled that in some cases an employer’s liability insurance should be triggered by the onset of the fatal cancer mesothelioma and not by asbestos exposure in the workplace.

But because mesothelioma symptoms develop decades after asbestos dust is inhaled – sometimes 40 to 50 years after initial exposure – it could deprive thousands of workers who develop the disease from receiving a penny in compensation.

It also gives leeway for insurance companies to take advantage of the Court of Appeal decision by tweaking the wording of their own insurance policies in order to avoid paying out compensation claims.

Unite’s challenge aims to fight back at the refusal from insurance companies to pay out compensation claims by making the law clearer.

The union’s joint general secretary Tony Woodley said: “The way the insurers refused to pay out is a kick in the guts to every family that’s watched a loved one suffer a painful and degrading death from mesothelioma.

“Insurers sold their policies knowing that employers and workers’ families would rely on them. Now they’re trying to weasel out of paying based on fancy legal argument and policy small print.

“Unite will put its full weight behind this appeal. We will pursue it because we want to see justice done to innocent victims and their families.”

Thompsons Solicitors asbestos policy head Ian McFall said that asbestos victims would welcome the decision by Unite to pursue the appeal to the highest court in the land.

Construction union Ucatt general secretary Alan Ritchie added: “The Supreme Court must now move quickly to ensure that the Court of Appeal’s decision is overturned and that asbestos victims who were exposed through no fault of their own are able to claim compensation.”

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos. There is no cure and around 2,000 people a year are currently diagnosed with the disease in Britain.

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