QC says insurers will be left with long-term liabilities from their court action

Insurers have "scored an own goal" by pushing down the value of final payments for pleural plaque cases, said a leading asbestos QC.

Speaking at the Asbestos Claims Insurance and Reinsurance conference, Andrew Hogarth QC said that by running the recent pleural plaques test cases insurers are encouraging claimants to settle for provisional damages, so leaving insurers with long-term liabilities on their books.

Hogarth said: "The insurance industry was pushing for this result, but by doing so they are encouraging claimants to go for provisional damages, rather than settling once and for all."

The ruling in the High Court pushed down the value of both partial and final settlements. Partial settlements were reduced from an average of around £6,000 to £4,000. Final settlement were pegged at around £7,000 compared to an historical settlement of up to £20,000.

But AXA claims director David Willaims defended the position taken by insurers saying the increasing costs and proportion of pleural plaques claims would cause tremendous problems if left unabated

The conference also discussed a paper from a recent UK actuarial report that suggested that what Norwich Union (NU) was looking for in its pleural test case and current appeal was to reduce provisional damages to £1,000 and sever the link to other diseases.

The paper, headed by NU actuarial director Julian Lowe, states: "Insurers are hoping that pleural plaques will either be confirmed as a non-compensatable condition, or that the level of provisional damages might be reduced to around £1,000 and that the link to other diseases will be broken."