The Association of British Insurers has criticized government proposals concerning payments to claimants who suffer from mesothelioma, a lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers.
The legislation is part of a Compensation Bill aimed at mitigating the effect of a decision by the House of Lords in the case of Baker v. Corus (See IJ Website May 5). The decision limited the effect of earlier cases by putting a higher burden of proof on claimants to identify the employer for whom they worked when they contracted the disease.
Speaking for the Bill, Lord Falconer, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, stated: “The Government is acting quickly to help claimants suffering from this terrible disease to receive the compensation to which they are entitled as soon as possible. I intend to bring forward an amendment to the Compensation Bill to provide that in these cases negligent employers should be jointly and severally liable, so that the claimant can recover full compensation from any relevant employer. It would then be open to that employer to seek a contribution to the damages awarded from other negligent employers.”
The ABI’s Director General Stephen Haddrill stated that the organization “believes that the recent House of Lords judgement, which arose from cases brought by the Government, should be overturned. We agree that action by the Government is needed to ensure fair treatment for mesothelioma sufferers.”
“However,” he added, “there is nothing in the Government’s proposal that will make the compensation system faster, or ensure that the compensation system operates fairly. The ABI has put forward proposals that would deal with both of these points. Our proposals would bring together all the parties, including insurers, employers and the state, so that everyone pays their fair share and claimants receive compensation in full and more quickly. We urge ministers to keep open the possibility of effective reform.”
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