The dramatic U-turn over the compensation laws covering asbestos victims may have been prompted by an emotional plea to prime minister Tony Blair.
The House of Lords had initially ruled that employers would only be liable to compensate asbestos victims for their share of damages, but the revised Compensation Act 2006 has effectively reversed this decision.
Just four weeks after the House of Lords decision in the Barker v Corus case, the Compensation Act was given Royal Assent, and the legal picture changed completely.
Under the new rules, an employer that exposed a worker to asbestos will now be liable for all the compensation related to the victim’s illness, even if the employee had worked for other companies or third parties that could have exposed them at other times.
Thompsons Solicitors, a law firm that represents several staff who contracted mesothelioma through asbestos exposure, said a shipyard worker had helped to convince politicians to reverse the decision.
Michael Blench, a former worker at Swan Hunter, had pleaded with the prime minister to intervene and amend the law, after some victims looked set to lose more than £100,000 in compensation under the previous ruling.