Asbestos Cancer Victims Win Landmark Ruling


A recent ruling in the High Court means that those claiming compensation for the fatal asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma could now be in line for six-figure sums.
The decision confirms that mesothelioma sufferers are able to claim compensation from the time they were exposed to the asbestos, rather than just from when the disease becomes apparent. Many years often elapse between the initial exposure to asbestos and the onset of symptoms.
A Court of Appeal decision, reached two years ago in a different legal context, led to this case. At that time, the Court ruled that insurers were only liable to pay compensation from the point at which disease was discovered. Relying on this, some insurers tried to avoid liability under policies that covered the period when the employee was exposed to asbestos but were no longer in force at the time when they became ill.
Fortunately for sufferers of mesothelioma, however, the High Court did not consider the earlier decision of the Court of Appeal applicable. This means that the position is restored whereby the date for determining liability is the time of the exposure to asbestos. 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.”
However, an appeal to the House of Lords is likely.
Around 2,000 people die every year as a result of mesothelioma and it is estimated that the annual figure will rise for some years to come. Past failures on the part of those with health and safety responsibilities to protect workers from asbestos dust have resulted in what has been referred to as a ‘ticking time bomb’. Workers most at risk include electricians, laggers, motor mechanics, plumbers, joiners and builders.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 were introduced to provide all workers with greater protection from exposure to asbestos. There is now a single Control Limit for all types of asbestos of 0.1 fibres per cubic centimetre.
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