Leading article: Clarity at last for the victims of asbestos

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The Independent Online

One of the most protracted battles in British legal history has finally come to an end – and with the only morally satisfactory outcome.

Until yesterday, some insurers were arguing that people with asbestos-related cancer could only claim damages on the insurance held by their negligent employers at the time the disease developed. If, therefore, the company responsible for putting them in such harm's way was no longer in business – quite possible, given that mesothelioma can take decades to show – that was just bad luck.

No longer. After more than five years of legal back and forth, the Supreme Court has concluded that the insurance from the time the lethal fibres were inhaled must pay out.

The sums involved could be huge, up to £5bn if all affected families make claims. Quite right. Given the appalling suffering caused by asbestos, compensation is the very least they can expect.