The Supreme Court has ruled that insurance liability in respect of asbestos claims made by employees should set liability at the time an employee was exposed to asbestos rather than the point at which symptoms of asbestosis appear. The Court of Appeal had previously held that insurers only became liable when mesothelioma (the form of lung cancer caused by asbestos) developed, rather than when pleural plaques (an indication of exposure to asbestos) were found. In other words, an employee may previously have known that they had been exposed to asbestos – and that they could develop mesothelioma in years to come – but they were unable to get a payout from their insurance. They are now able to claim on their insurance in this scenario.
Giving his judgment, Lord Clarke said “mesothelioma is “sustained” or “contracted” when the process that leads to the disease is initiated as a result of the wrongful exposure of the employee to the asbestos fibre or fibres which cause the disease“.
Ensure that your business is aware of the potential threat of asbestos to employees. These Asbestos Containing Materials documents can help you understand which materials may contain asbestos, how to carry out an inspection of your premises as well as a template for an asbestos permit and a note on controlled disposal.