Judge rules on employers’ liability and mesothelioma
by Gill Montia
At the end of last week, a long-awaited judgement was handed down in the case of Durham v BAI and Others.
The action concerned employers’ liability insurance and claims for mesothelioma, a cancer caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres.
The case, which was heard in the High Court of Justice during the summer, involved six actions in where there were disputes regarding the “trigger” event in employers’ liability policies.
Mr Justice Burton found that when parties entered an agreement for insurance the “trigger” date for the illness was the date of inhalation of the asbestos fibres and not the date when the cancer developed.
Mesothelioma tumours can take many years to grow and the case was brought to settle the issue of whether the insurers liable to meet the claims were those insuring the employers at the time of the inhalation of the fibres, or those insuring the employers when tumours developed in current or ex-employees.
The judgement has therefore clarified that where damage to an employee was caused years ago, a claim can be made against the employers’ historic insurers.
A different outcome would have meant that employers themselves could be liable for payment of compensation in such cases.