Asbestos ruling not clear-cut

By staff

Taxpayers could be left facing a hefty bill for compensation after judges ruled in favour of insurance companies over an estimated 6,000 asbestos cases.

The court of appeal partially overturned an initial ruling relating to compensation appeals relating to payouts for the relatives of those who had succumbed to the fatal asbestos illness mesothelioma.

The significant gap between ingesting of the deadly fibres and onset of mesothelioma, sometimes over 50 years, had led to a dispute between industrial insurance firms and those providing insurance at the time of the illness’ onset.

Some victims and their families are entitled to compensation from the government, related to asbestos-induced illnesses where the state was the employer through nationalised businesses.

Lawyers said afterwards those seeking compensation faced ongoing confusion as they struggled to establish whether their case’s prospect for compensation had changed.

Industrial firms could take the matter to the supreme court, complicating matters further.

“By continually appealing and drawing out this process as long as possible they’re ensuring that victims are never able to put their financial affairs in order before their inevitable death,” Hugh Robertson of the TUC was quoted by the Independent newspaper as saying before today’s ruling.

“These tactics are so irresponsible because you’re talking about a disease which, on average, results in death just 18 months from diagnosis. This isn’t just a tragedy for the families, but for the victims, who are denied even that little peace of mind.”