The Supreme Court has handed down a landmark ruling to assist victims and their families who suffer from mesothelioma.

The Court ruled against insurance companies by finding that insurers cover employers for claims made by their employees at the time the mesothelioma victim was exposed to asbestos and not when the disease occurred.

Previously, the Court of Appeal had provided a split judgment and the insurers were partially successful arguing that the employers liability insurance is “triggered” not by the exposure to the asbestos but when the disease developed, which can sometimes be decades later.  This provided uncertainty and potentially left many victims with no compensation as there would have been no insurance in place to pay the claim if their employer had gone out of business.

One of the Lords hearing the case in the Supreme Court, Lord Clarke concluded “the whole purpose of the policies was to insure the employers against liability to their employees.  That purpose would be frustrated if the insurers’ submissions on this point were accepted”.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will provide comfort and relief to victims, and it will mean that they can now receive the compensation that they have been waiting for and it will also mean that anyone who suffers from this terrible illness will now receive the justice and financial security they need. 

Employers will be relieved that they can now recover money that was paid out for mesothelioma claims and also have clarity that they are insured for these types of claims. 

Asbestos exposure may lead to victims’ developing several different types of disease years after exposure and the worst of these is mesothelioma. It is believed it causes more than 3,000 deaths per year.  The number of people developing mesothelioma is still rising and it is expected to peak around 2015.

Keith Howell of Cobbetts LLP, a specialist in dealing with asbestos claims says “it is reassuring to both victims and employers that the Supreme Court has now clarified the position in relation to insurance cover. The Court of Appeal judgment potentially left victims being unable to recover compensation and employers having to pay out from their own pocket when they assumed they had employers liability insurance cover in place.

No one should be left without compensation if mestothelioma was caused by negligent exposure to asbestos.  There can be significant emotional and financial burdens upon families and it would have been a great injustice if compensation was not paid by insurers."