The UK's largest law firm acting for asbestos victims welcomed today's decision by the Law Lords to overturn a  devastating ruling by the Court of Appeal which robbed thousands of dying men and widows of compensation.

The decision means that thousands of widows and families of men who have died or are dying can once again claim compensation from the employers who exposed their loved ones to the deadly dust.

Thousands of cases have been stayed since the Court of Appeal ruled last year in the Fairchild case that there can be no compensation for victims of the terminal asbestos cancer, mesothelioma if, as is usually the case in asbestos claims, the individual was exposed to the deadly dust by more than one employer.

Estimated that by 2010, 10,000 people a year will be dying of mesothelioma

It was a devastating blow, meaning that companies could admit that they had negligently exposed workers - who then develop mesothelioma - to asbestos, yet they could walk away without having to pay a penny in compensation.

It is estimated that by 2010 10,000 people a year will be dying of mesothelioma, twice the number who are killed annually on the roads.

Insurance companies stood to save tens of millions of pounds whilst victims are potentially left penniless.

Ian McFall, head of the national asbestos team at Thompsons Solicitors, the UK's largest personal injury law firm, condemned the Law Lords' decision:

"We welcome the decision of the Law Lords which at last restores some sense of justice to the victims of the asbestos industry. But it is a tragedy that hundreds of men have died since the Fairchild ruling not knowing if their families would receive a penny."