Landmark ruling on asbestos cancer claims
by Gill Montia
Story link: Landmark ruling on asbestos cancer claims
The Supreme Court has ruled against an appeal by insurers regarding the scope of insurers’ obligations where employees have contracted mesothelioma, following exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma has an unusually long gestation period, which can be in excess of 40 years between exposure to asbestos and manifestation of the disease.
The insurers bringing the case maintained that employers’ liability policies only cover mesothelioma which manifested as a disease at some point during the relevant policy period.
However, the Court ruled in favour of employers who submitted that insurance policies respond to mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos during the relevant policy period, but which develops and manifests itself sometime later.
Commenting on the outcome, the Association of British Insurers’ director of general insurance and health, Nick Starling, said: “Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court has confirmed what most in the industry have always understood – that the insurer on cover when the claimant was exposed to asbestos should pay the claim, rather than the insurer on cover when the mesothelioma develops.”
He added: “This case has been pursued by a small group of ‘run-off’ insurers acting independently and at odds with the views of the majority of the UK insurance industry.”
The ABI is also in favour of introducing a pre-action protocol so that claimant solicitors and insurers are held to strict timelines regarding claims and is proposing the launch of an online mesothelioma portal to improve the efficiency of the claims process.
According to a recent report in the Independent on Sunday, up to 25,000 families could be affected by the ruling, taking the potential compensation bill to £5 billion.