28 March 2012
The Supreme Court today (28 March 2012) handed down the long-awaited landmark judgment
in the “Mesothelioma Trigger Litigation”, which has been ongoing since 2008.
is a fatal cancer, which typically occurs in the lungs and is always caused by asbestos exposure. The vast majority of sufferers are retired men who worked with asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s and were negligently exposed to asbestos by lax employers. Many of those men (and women) have gone on to make legal claims against their employer’s insurance companies, in order to compensate their pain and suffering, and provide funding for medical treatment their families’ security. Today the Supreme Court confirmed those insurers must pay compensation to the victims.
Whilst many employers from the 1960s and 70s have gone out of business in the decades it takes for mesothelioma to develop, the compensation has (until recent years) always been paid by the insurance companies who provided cover at the time of employment (in the 60s and 70s etc). Following a Court of Appeal judgment in 2006, four insurers (MMI, Builders Accident, Excess and the Independent Insurance Company) raised a test case arguing they should not have to pay out on the claims and the real “trigger” for claiming against insurers occurred at the date the disease developed (decades later).
After a Court battle lasting several years and affecting up to 6,000 families, the Supreme Court has ruled the four insurers were wrong and the relevant “trigger” is the date of employment. The cost to the insurance industry is estimated to be in excess of £600m pounds and could run into billions of pounds in future years.
Every year, it is thought that over 4,000 people in England and Wales die from asbestos, the greatest cause of work-related deaths in Britain. The time delay between asbestos exposure and the development of a disease, which can often run into decades, means the cases are particularly difficult and give rise to a number of complex legal issues. Mesothelioma sufferers face a heavy battle to recover compensation to give them and their families some future security when they face certain death. Since the landmark Fairchild judgment in 2000, asbestos specialist solicitors have faced a barrage of test cases in their fight to recover compensation for asbestos victims. The trigger litigation is the latest in a long line of cynical attempts by the insurance industry to prevent compensation to asbestos disease sufferers.
The dangers of asbestos started to be understood at the start of the twentieth century. As such many asbestos victims are able to prove their employer was negligent and make a claim against them, or their insurers, with damages often in the region of £200,000. For many victims, the insurance is a lifeline and essential compensation for those facing massive uncertainty and worry, at a time of protracted and painful symptoms.
Partner and head of asbestos and industrial disease claims
at Leigh Day & Co, Daniel Easton
“This is probably the most significant asbestos judgment since these claims began. The ability of asbestos victims to claim compensation simply cannot be understated and the outrageous attempt by these insurers to avoid paying on claims has rightly been proved to be wrong and utterly unjustified. These four insurers have added immeasurably to the suffering caused to the victims, and they should be ashamed of their actions. Most of the victims will have died before knowing the end result.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people relying on this judgment and the legal fees wasted could have compensated victims many times over. It has been a wholly farcical saga. It is time the insurance industry avoided these cynical attempts to stop paying compensation to asbestos sufferers and to face the liabilities against them.”
Leigh Day: asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers
Leigh Day has a team of specialist mesothelioma claims lawyers who have successfully obtained millions of pounds in compensation for people who have contracted mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in the workplace. We only represent claimants and do not act for insurance companies. Daniel Easton
, partner and head of the industrial diseases team, has been recognised as a leader in the areas of asbestos compensation claims by both major legal directories. Chambers guide to the legal profession recently described him as being considered ‘outstandingly knowledgeable’ by the Bar, and ‘compassionate’ and ‘responsive’ by clients.
If you would like to talk to one of our lawyers about a possible claim for compensation relating to asbestos, asbestosis, pleural plaques or mesothelioma please contact us on 020 7650 1200
for a free initial consultation.
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