The case began in the High Court on 3rd June 2008.
Insurance companies were denying liability to pay compensation in mesothelioma cases on the basis that under policies taken out by employers to cover themselves against liability to workers who become ill due to their work, liability was “triggered” by the onset of asbestos related disease rather than by the exposure to asbestos.
The insurers argued that they had no liability under policies which covered the time when employees were exposed to asbestos but which did not cover the time when they fell ill. As the time lapse between exposure to asbestos and developing mesothelioma can be as much as 40 years a lot of mesothelioma sufferers and/or their families would have lost out if the insurers had won this argument. The insurers have lost.
The test case followed from the death of Charles O’Farrell. His family sued Excess Insurance, which covered his former employer, Humphreys & Glasgow. Other test cases, all heard together, were Fern v BAI; Bates v BAI; Fleming v Independent; Akzo Nobel & Amec Plc v Excess Ins. Co; and MMI v Zurich & Adur DC & ors.