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UK Supreme Court Ruling Places Insurance Liability for Asbestos Exposure

Middlesex Guildhall in London

The Middlesex Guildhall in London is the location of the Supreme Court.

A step towards justice for asbestos victims took place this week by a ruling made by the UK Supreme Court which could allow thousands families of people who died after exposure to asbestos to have greater access to compensation.

The new ruling by a panel of five Supreme Court justices determined that insurance liability for disease sufferers should be placed at the time of asbestos exposure, rather than when symptoms appeared.

This ruling has major ramifications for people looking to obtain asbestos compensation as it can take decades for asbestos illnesses – which include malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis – to manifest symptoms. By placing the liability at the time of exposure, thousands more people could be able to file claims.

One justice of the Supreme Court, Lord Clarke, said:

“The negligent exposure of an employee to asbestos during the [insurance] policy period has a sufficient causal link with subsequently arising mesothelioma to trigger the insurer’s obligation.”

Unite, which is reportedly the largest trade union in Britain and the Republic of Ireland, said that the ruling will have a positive impact for asbestos victims and their families. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:

“It is a disgrace that insurance companies went to such lengths to shirk their responsibilities.”

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision, Nick Starling, director of general insurance and health at the Association of British Insurers, 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.

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