In a landmark test case in the High Court, Unite the union, has successfully defended the rights of vulnerable asbestos victims from insurers’ attempts to avoid their liabilities.
The trade union has resisted a legal challenge by insurance companies which, if successful, could have deprived thousands of mesothelioma sufferers and their families of compensation.
The High Court today (November 21, 2008) ruled that Employers’ Liability insurers remain liable to pay compensation for mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos in the work place if they insured the employer at the time the asbestos exposure occurred.
The important decision comes after a nine-week court battle in June and July 2008.
Unite Joint General Secretary, Derek Simpson said: “This is a hugely important victory for the victims of the deadly dust and for their families. Having to suffer or watch your relatives suffer from a slow and painful death is horrific.
“Thousands of men and women across the UK have been negligently exposed to asbestos by their employers but insurers have tried and failed to use legal technicalities to escape their responsibility to pay compensation under the policies they sold to employers. They sought to avoid their liabilities while pocketing the money.”
“We are prepared to take on the big cases and fight for our members’ rights to justice. We are delighted the High Court has protected the right of mesothelioma sufferers to obtain compensation from insurers. This decision illustrates the role and importance of Unite. Without trade unions many of these cases would never have been fought . Unite has been at the forefront of the legal and political campaign to win compensation for the victims of asbestos.”
In what has become known as the mesothelioma “trigger issue” test case a number of insurers argued the policies they sold, to insure employers against liability for workers who were injured or suffered illness due to work, were “triggered” by the development of the disease rather than by the exposure to asbestos.
Often the time lapse between exposure to the deadly dust and the development of mesothelioma can 40 years or more.
If the insurance companies’ defence had been successful it could have deprived thousands of asbestos victims and their families of their right to compensation.
The successful conclusion to the test case means the family of mesothelioma victim and Unite member Charles Michael O’Farrell will be a step closer to receiving ?152,000 in compensation from his former employer’s insurers Excess Insurance Company Limited.
Charles O’Farrell was a retired member of Unite who died in 2003. He was exposed to asbestos while working as a steel erector for Humphreys & Glasgow Limited from 1964 to 1967. The company ceased trading in1986 and is currently in liquidation.
Source: Unite the union, UK