Unite seeks asbestos justice
Supreme Court judges have been asked by Unite to end the uncertainty about whether people dying from the asbestos cancer and their families will be entitled to compensation. Unite's appeal to the UK's highest court, which started on 5 December and will end next week, comes after insurance companies were partly successful in a test case about whether insurers are liable to pay claims for the fatal asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. The Court of Appeal ruled in October 2010 that the High Court was wrong when it decided, in 2008, that all insurers who provided cover to the employer at the time of the asbestos exposure should pay, ruling that in some cases the insurer was instead liable at the time the related disease subsequently developed, typically decades later. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: 'Unite is determined to restore justice for our members and all victims of asbestos. The Court of Appeal decision has left a black hole in the protection that employers' liability insurance was intended to provide. Insurance companies sold policies to cover risk. When the risk became a reality some resorted to picking apart the words in their own policies.' He added: 'It is illogical that some victims of asbestos will receive compensation and others won't, depending on words such as 'injury sustained' or 'disease contracted' used in insurance contracts written decades ago. Try explaining that to someone diagnosed with a fatal disease caused by the negligence of their employers.' The Court of Appeal decided that in some cases the employers' liability insurance is 'triggered' not by the exposure to asbestos, but by the development of the disease decades later, by which time there is frequently no firm and no insurance in place to respond to the claim.
Issued: 9 December, 2011