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Asbestosis victims get good news

PUBLISHED: 18:00 17 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:57 03 March 2010

SUFFOLK asbestosis victims have reason to celebrate after a landmark court judgement signalled the end of their long wait for compensation.

Five law lords overturned a Court of Appeal ruling that had denied compensation to the victims because they could not prove which of several employers had been responsible for their illness.

Five law lords overturned a Court of Appeal ruling that had denied compensation to the victims because they could not prove which of several employers had been responsible for their illness.

About 5,000 people died in the UK last year of asbestos-related diseases, most from mesothelioma, and the figure is expected to rise to 10,000 by 2010.

The Evening Star has campaigned for rights for victims of asbestosis first in the 1980s, when Cliff Quay power station in Ipswich was demolished, and again in 1997 with our Silent Disaster campaign.

The new decision will benefit workers and their families who have suffered after being exposed to asbestos while employed at various sites across the region, most notably those who were once based at Cliff Quay power station.

Cliff Quay, which employed 500 people at its peak, closed in 1985 – but within four years, 12 former workers had died as a result of industrial disease.

Two years after the site was demolished in 1994, the Ipswich coroner investigated a further 20 possible asbestosis cases and recorded a verdict of death due to industrial disease in half of them.

The judgement followed a three-day House of Lords hearing by the law lords, headed by Lord Bingham, involving three test cases.

Lawyers for the widows of two victims of mesothelioma and a sufferer had challenged High Court and Court of Appeal rulings that compensation could not be paid in a case where a worker had been exposed to the deadly dust by more than one employer.

Unions and lawyers said the judgement would help thousands of sufferers and would teach the insurance industry "a lesson it will never forget", with companies likely to have to pay out up to £8 billion.

Mick Antoniw, an asbestos litigation specialist at law firm Thompsons, said: "The decision at last restores some sense of justice to the victims of asbestos.

"But it is a tragedy that hundreds of men have died since the Court of Appeal ruling last year, not knowing if their families would receive a penny."

John Parker, head of general insurance at the Association of British Insurers, said: "Insurers will welcome the clarity provided by today's ruling. It is good that the judicial process has now reached a definitive conclusion."

He added some of the estimates of the cost of the judgement to insurers were "wildly out of line with reality" and felt individual companies would all be in a position to meet their liabilities.


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