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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

UK Asbestos Coverage Ruling Exposes Reality – Supposed Risk Takers Really Want Certainty and V

Time and again insurers tell us that litigation is wasteful and all claims should settle. And we are often told that insurers and others in the financial industry are swashbuckling entrepreneurs embarked on bold courses, and that handsome financial returns are therefore well earned in return for taking supposed risks.

Contrast those spins against the following insurer comments following their resounding loss in a six year legal journey that ended yesterday with a ruling by the UK Supreme Court. In short, the reality is that insurers use litigation when it suits them and they want certainty. And to obtain their certainty, they often (but not always) refuse to pay claims and create far more financial uncertainty for sick people with few financial assets. The excerpts below are from a Financial Times article of today by Jane Croft:

"The battle centred on the obligations of a small group of insurance companies providing employers’ liability insurance cover and the extent of their legal obligations to indemnify employers against claims from workers who became ill.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court has confirmed what most in the industry have always understood – that the insurer on cover when the claimant was exposed to asbestos should pay the claim, rather than the insurer on cover when the mesothelioma develops,” said Nick Starling, director of the Association of British Insurers.

Leon Taylor, partner at law firm DLA Piper, said: “The result will be a relief to thousands of disease victims and their families, as well as employer’s liability (EL) policyholders, whose mesothelioma-related insurance claims have been on hold pending the outcome of the litigation.” He said the ruling meant that the administrators of two of the insolvent insurance companies involved now had the legal clarity needed to properly manage the claims.

Municipal Mutual Insurance, another of the insurers which contested the proposal to date liability back to the time of exposure, said the ruling did not reflect MMI’s favoured outcome but it welcomed the clarity the judgment brings as it will enable MMI to determine the extent of its liabilities. “It should be noted that MMI has continued to compensate local authority employers for mesothelioma claims, despite not being obliged to pay out claims until the outcome of the case was known,” it said in a statement.

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