A lawyer’s take on the mesothelioma ruling

Last week’s High Court ruling on mesothelioma cases will be a costly judgment for insurers, exposing the industry to policies that are up to 50 years old.

Now that insurers are liable from the time of asbestos exposure, many dormant cases that were put on hold because of this dispute will be reopened and insurers will have to pay out.

This ruling puts an extra onus on brokers. It throws up questions about how far the brokers’ duty goes and their records will be under a great deal of scrutiny as policies are traced back to the 1960s and 1970s.

Browne Jacobson advises that reserves are key to minimising the potential damage posed by this ruling. Companies need to increase their reserves to reflect the rising number of claims and put in place strategies to manage such contingencies.

It is also good practice for companies in relevant sectors such as construction to research their past employees in order to authenticate such claims.

This ruling is good news for the trade unions, but insurers will now have to meet these heavy claims, paying out on policies that were paid into by companies many years ago. It is expected that insurers will appeal, however.

Andrew Christon is an associate solicitor at Browne Jacobson.