Landmark judgment finds in favour of low-level asbestosis sufferers; bigger claims likely in future

Insurers face an avalanche of compensation claims from asbestosis sufferers after losing a landmark legal battle.

The judgment means that people who suffer breathing problems in which asbestosis may only play a small part can now claim for compensation.

Law firm Keoghs said insurers could expect a “likely stampede for full and final awards” following the case.

Partner David Pugh remarked: “At the tail end of pleural plaques, we saw ‘scan vans’ picking up people with plaques. The same techniques could be used for low-level asbestosis cases.”

The judgment revolves around claimants Gordon Beddoes and William Cooksey, who both had breathing difficulties, although asbestosis was deemed to have contributed to little more than 1% of their breathing problems.

Beddoes and Cooksey won their cases, against Vintners Defence Systems?and Vintners Armstrong respectively, at Newcastle County Court on 2 March. At a hearing in May, Beddoes, 65, was awarded £11,375 and Cooksey, 70, £13,612.

Pugh predicted that insurers would face even higher compensation claims because other claimants would likely have more serious asbestosis illness than Beddoes and Cooksey.

However, it would be difficult to estimate the number of individuals involved, he said, because it was the first successful claim of its type.

Pugh added: “I know that some insurers, for reasons I cannot fathom, are keener on full and final settlements because they do not like to have provisional files lying around. That would be about the only sunny side.”

It is not yet known if the insurers involved in the case will appeal the judgment.