I never cease to be amazed by the lengths to which insurance companies will go to avoid paying compensation, particularly to victims of asbestos exposure, many of whom are terminally ill with deadly cancers like mesothelioma.
A consortium of insurance companies is already mounting a legal challenge to a law which the Scottish Government passed last year, confirming the right to compensation for those suffering from pleural plaques, the earliest symptom of asbestos dust in the lungs.
That means hundreds of sufferers and their families are living in legal limbo.
Now Excess Insurance has been partially successful in convincing the Court of Appeal in London that the wording in the small print of an employer’s liability policy means they don’t have to pay compensation to the family of an asbestos victim.
Derek Simpson, General Secretary of Unite, the victim’s trade union, describes the sight of the Insurers banking premiums and then escaping paying compensation by relying on policy small print obligations as ‘obscene,’ and I have to agree.
Insurance companies sold policies to cover risk. Now that risk has become reality they have resorted to picking apart the words in their own policies.
The court ruling means some insurers are required to pay while others are not – try explaining that logic to people diagnosed with fatal illness caused by the negligence of their employers.
The judgement leaves a black hole in the protection that employers’ liability insurance was intended to provide.
This decision only affects England and Wales, but its potential ramifications mean that we may have to challenge it here in Scotland, as we have done in other cases.