Exposed to Asbestos

The family, who do not wish to be identified, have been awarded £70,000 in damages after their dad died from the devastating disease.
But they must wait until the outcome of a court hearing before they will know if they will receive the compensation.

Their dad was exposed to asbestos while working for Manchester Slate Company during the 1940s and 1950s.

He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2004 and died just twelve months later.

The family contacted Thompsons Solicitors following his death for advice about compensation. Although Manchester Slate Company had gone into liquidation Thompsons were able to find the insurer at the time of the asbestos exposure.

The insurer, Builders Accident Insurance (BAI) will only pay out if a court battle, to change the way compensation is paid to mesothelioma victims, fails.

'Trigger Issue'

The insurer is arguing that the Employers’ Liability insurance cover, used by companies to insure against liability for employees becoming ill or injured while working, is “triggered” by the development of mesothelioma rather than by the exposure to asbestos.

Often the time lapse between exposure to the deadly dust and the development of mesothelioma can be longer than 30 years.

Mesothelioma sufferers’ claims are being denied by a number of Employers’ Liability insurers who are now in liquidation.

For over 40 years the insurance industry has accepted that the insurer who was on cover at the time the asbestos exposure occurred must pay the claim.

But the industry has seized upon a recent Court of Appeal decision in a Public Liability insurance, case.

The insurers argue that the Court of Appeal ruling should be followed when dealing with Employer’s Liability mesothelioma claims.

The issue will be tried by the High Court in London during a nine week hearing later this year, meaning the victim’s family now must wait for the outcome to find out if they will be compensated for the death of their father.

The victim’s son said: “In this case there is 40 year gap between my dad breathing in asbestos at work and being diagnosed with this disease. I don’t understand how they can even consider that the insurers at the time he worked there are not responsible for paying compensation.

“The principle matters more than the money. Our family are united by the fact that we want justice for my dad because of what he went through.

“We are disappointed that we must now wait until the outcome of this hearing.”

If the insurers’ argument is successful they will escape liability to pay compensation.

Client representative at Thompsons Solicitors, Joanne Candlish said: “This was an extremely difficult case as we faced a number of evidential, legal and technical challenges Despite this we have been able to overcome some of the hurdles placed in our way and secure a judgement on behalf of the family. Unfortunately this will be small consolation if the insurance industry gets its way in the ‘trigger issue’. Sadly this family has a long wait.”

Head of Asbestos Policy

Head of Asbestos Policy at Thompsons Solicitors, Ian McFall said about the ‘trigger issue’: “This is a very serious threat to mesothelioma victims right to claim compensation.

“If the insurers are successful in their argument many victims will find that there is no one to pay the claim because, by the time their disease occurs, which is sometimes 30 years or more after they were exposed to asbestos, the employer has ceased trading and no insurance exists.

“The insurers must know this argument will frustrate and delay the process of obtaining compensation for terminally ill claimants and will introduce uncertainty about how historical policies of employment liability insurance should work in practice in these cases.”