Supreme Court to rule on abestos payouts

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The Independent Online

A legal battle to determine whether tens of thousands of asbestos-related cancer victims and their families will be compensated is to be heard by the Supreme Court tomorrow.

Four insurance companies are trying to restrict payments to workers dying from mesothelioma, by claiming that employers' liability is restricted to when the lethal tumours start to develop instead of when the victims were exposed to the deadly dust. Decades can pass before the cancer develops. If the insurers lose, the compensation bill could be in excess of £250m.

Asbestos exposure is the biggest killer in the British workforce, causing more than 4,000 deaths each year – more than road traffic accidents. Deaths in the UK are not expected to peak until 2016.

The outcome of the case will influence the creation of a Government "fund of last resort" for victims of asbestos exposure but who cannot trace their employers' insurers.