Court ruling to have impact on asbestos laws

A “landmark” ruling by the Supreme Court could lead to a flood of compensation claims from workers who have been exposed to low levels of asbestos dust, argue lawyers.

The ruling involved the families of Dianne Willmore and Enid Costello, both of whom died of mesothelioma after being exposed to relatively low levels of asbestos.

Insurers had attempted to argue that courts should make a decision over the legal threshold of asbestos exposure before compensation was payable, but this was rejected by the Supreme Court.

Michael Osborne, from law firm Moore Blatch Resolve, said that as a result he expected compensation claims to rise significantly, with people involved in a wide range of trades now set to pursue a claim.

Previously, workers in trades where asbestos was widespread, such as shipbuilding and engineering, provided the bulk of claims, but now office workers, teachers and lab technicians are set to make a stand.

“We believe these judgments will see successful cases rise by around 10% in the coming years as more companies will be held liable for exposing people to low levels of the dust,” said Osborne.

“The Supreme Court has accepted that, if someone was wrongfully exposed to asbestos by only one company or organisation, then that defendant is liable to compensate for the mesothelioma in full, as long as the exposure to asbestos was not insignificant.

“There are several groups of people who are likely to be helped by this decision, such as carpenters, electricians, office workers in factories, painters and decorators, teachers and lab technicians,” he added.

XpertHR provides a model policy and procedure to help set out company rules on the control of asbestos.

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