Victory For Asbestos Victims In High Court Battle

Reassuring Mesothelioma Compensation Ruling


Asbestos victims are celebrating today after a High Court ruling provided clarity and comfort to them and their families who, as a result, will continue to have access to compensation.

The judgment, that will affect thousands of mesothelioma victims now, and in the future, was given today after Mr Justice Burton heard evidence in a group of cases collectively known as the Employer’s Liability Insurance Policy "Trigger" Litigation during a nine week trial this summer.

The High Court battle ensued after a Court of Appeal ruling in 2006 decided that the mesothelioma injury did not occur until the cancer had emerged. Until this time, practice across the insurance industry had been for the insurer who provided the policy to the employer at the time an employee was wrongfully exposed to asbestos, to pay the compensation due.

Although this Appeal Court decision related to a different form of insurance (covering members of the public who suffered injuries) and considered different clauses within the policies,   four insurance companies decided to argue that the same contractual interpretation should apply to the clauses used in their  employer’s liability insurance policies. Today, Mr Justice Burton announced that this argument was not upheld.

Represented by Irwin Mitchell, Ruth Durham, whose father died of mesothelioma after he was negligently exposed to asbestos, was the lead test case during the trial. Leslie Screach initially contacted industrial disease specialists at the firm in April 2003 when he became ill because of the work he had done as a paint sprayer for G & C Whittle Ltd, based in Chiswick, West London from 1963 to 1968. Following his death in November 2003 aged 73; Ruth continued the claim on his behalf.

Adrian Budgen, head of industrial disease at Irwin Mitchell represented Mrs Durham and welcomed the judgment. He said: "Today's ruling is a real victory for asbestos cancer victims and their families, like Ruth, at the end of what has been a very long and complex trial. Over the summer the Court heard evidence from medical experts from the UK and abroad about the development of mesothelioma, as well as from a number of people who worked in the insurance industry from the 1960's onwards.

"The dangers of exposure to asbestos dust have been known since at least the early part of the last century and today's decision ensures that many mesothelioma victims who were negligently exposed to asbestos by their employers will have the comfort of knowing that they and their families will receive compensation."

Still remembering how her father Leslie’s health deteriorated, Ruth said:  “I am hugely relieved to hear of today's court decision, which will see justice done for my father and hundreds of other mesothelioma sufferers now and in the future.

"Dad and I had a very close relationship and were really good friends. During the Second World War, Dad learned to use sign language and when I decided to learn, we used to practise together. It became our special way of communicating with one another and, when he was diagnosed with cancer, he couldn't bring himself to tell me directly and just made the sign for Cancer to let me know the terrible news.

"I miss him every day and no sum of money will ever compensate for the terrible suffering that my father endured. However, I hope that by pursuing this legal action, which will help others in future, it will make his suffering and death more bearable."