Reed Smith says the ‘landmark’ ruling clears up a grey area around historic liabilities

A ruling in the High Court today (November 21) clarifies that employees damaged by exposure to asbestos many years ago can claim against the employers' historic insurers, according to the law firm Reed Smith.

The ruling means the injured employees can make the claim even though there is no exact proof of when life-threatening tumours developed, said the firm.

Reed Smith said the ruling removes doubt surrounding the issue since a Court of Appeal decision in 2006, which created an apparent get-out for some insurers faced with massive liabilities from claims going back several decades.

‘The ruling will come as a huge relief to companies facing claims amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, which would otherwise have had to be met from their own resources, as insurers denied liability,’ said the firm.

Jonathan Hofstetter and Darren Smith led a team from Reed Smith to bring the test case on behalf of a corporate client facing a flood of compensation claims after its insurer declined to pay.

The lawyers hailed the High Court decision as a legal landmark, which clarifies a grey area that had enabled a number of insurers to refuse to pay out on many asbestos-related cases.

The High Court has now ruled that, although claims brought under public liability insurance are governed by the 2006 decision, employers' liability claims should be treated as they have always been, and that mere exposure to asbestos is sufficient to generate a legitimate claim.

‘Those historic insurers should now fund the claims they have declined since 2006, and all future claims,’ said Reed Smith.