Insurers have failed in their attempt to evade responsibility for compensating thousands of victims of asbestos exposure according to a landmark judgment in a test case announced today in the High Court in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Norwich Union and British Shipbuilders challenged the right of people exposed to asbestos to claim compensation for pleural plaques, scarring of the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos. The judge rejected their argument that pleural plaques should not be compensated.

Although the insurers succeeded in having the amount of the awards reduced, the right to compensation, and to return to court should the claimant develop a more serious asbestos-related condition, remains intact.

Pleural plaques indicate an increased risk of developing asbestos-related illness

Mr Justice Holland ruled that pleural plaques, indicating an increased risk of developing asbestos-related illness (including the fatal disease mesothelioma), which is a cause of anxiety meant that compensation should be paid.

The insurance industry and British Shipbuilders stood to save millions of pounds had they been successful in defeating the claims. They tried to prevent thousands of people with pleural plaques from making claims against the companies  who negligently exposed them to asbestos.

Ian McFall, national head of asbestos litigation for Thompsons Solicitors, the law firm who represented union members in the High Court case, said: "This judgment is a victory for our clients and everyone else who has a similar claim. The High Court has reaffirmed the right to compensation for pleural plaques. It has held that our clients have suffered injury and that the negligent employers and their insurers must pay damages. This is good law which puts people before profit."

Note for editors

Thompsons is the leading trade union law firm. Ian McFall represented Amicus members in the High Court action. Thompsons can provide a client for media interviews.

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