The Irish Supreme Court has overturned a decision to award damages to five plaintiffs who claimed that, despite having no physical injury as a result of exposure to asbestos, they had suffered psychiatric damage.

In Fletcher v The Commis-sioners of Public Works in Ireland, the plaintiffs claimed they were exposed to asbestos in their workplace from 1985 to 1989.

Doctors, who found no evidence that Stephen Fletcher had asbestos- related disease, said it was "very unlikely" he would develop asbestosis or lung cancer, and that the risk of developing mesothelioma was "remote".

But a psychiatrist diagnosed Fletcher with a "reactive anxiety neurosis", which he developed as a result of knowing the risks associated with his exposure.

Insurance litigation firm Davies Arnold Cooper said that with Irish personal injury awards among the highest in the EU, the decision would be welcomed by UK insurers.

A spokeswoman said that the implications of the decision could extend to fear of injury claims in general.