The families of workers, who died of an asbestos-related cancer, started a legal fight for compensation more than five years ago.
The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the insurance liability liability was triggered when employees were exposed to asbestos dust and not when symptoms of mesothelioma emerged.
Legal luminaries say the ruling would mean that the employer’s insurers will have to pay compensation and would affect thousands of claims.
Other relatives of the victims want to make claims on policies from the late 1940’s to 1990’s.
In 2008 the relatives had won their first battle in the High Court where the court ruled that workers had inhaled fibres and the insurers were liable.
But two years later the Court of Appeal said that in some cases the liability started only when symptoms developed sometimes decades after exposure. Lawyers said that the ruling left the victim’s families confused and uncertain.
But the Supreme Court convened a five bench panel and heard lead cases at London in December and delivered their judgment eventually.
The Supreme Court ruled that though the manifestation of the disease in an employee may have come late but the disease in itself was sustained by an employee in the period when it was caused or initiated.
Lord Clarke said there was sufficient casual link to the negligent exposure of an employee to asbestos and subsequent sustenance of mesothelioma, within the policy period, triggering obligation of the insurer.
The largest union of Britain and Ireland, Unite’, welcoming the landmark judgment said that it will affect many of the 2,500 people who were suffering with mesothelioma every year.
It said it had gone for appeal after the Court of Appeal decision challenging on behalf of the family of Charles O’Farrell a member who died after retirement due to mesothelioma in 2003.