25 November 2008
Decision reached over insurer liability in asbestos-related claims
A verdict has been reached in a test case concerning which insurers are liable in cases where employees develop asbestos-related diseases.
Mr Justice Burton has ruled that insurers of firms that expose their workforce to asbestos dust are liable to pay compensation for any subsequent claim filed by staff members who go on to develop an illness connected to that exposure.
The judgement has paved the way for thousands of cancer victims to receive six-figure compensation sums.
Families were forced to take legal action following a court of appeal ruling two years ago in which it was decided that liability was triggered when the cancer mesothelioma - which affects the tissue surrounding the lungs or abdomen - emerged, not at the time of exposure.
If the case had been able to set a precedent, it would have been harder for victims of the disease and their families to receive payouts.
Making his ruling, Mr Justice Burton said: "It is plain that there is, albeit unknown to the sufferer, an injury and a disease present in his or her body well before it makes itself manifest by his finding difficulty in breathing," the Times reports.
Meanwhile, Alison Kerr from legal firm Russell Jones & Walker said: "This case shows what lengths insurers will go to in their efforts to avoid paying compensation to mesothelioma sufferers.
"Fortunately the judge took a common sense approach which will be welcomed by all families affected by this terrible disease."