People suffering from the incurable lung cancer mesothelioma face a new legal lottery after the Court of Appeal threw the process for claiming compensation into chaos last week.
Mesothelioma, and other similar conditions, only develop decades after exposure to lethal asbestos fibres.
This means that people diagnosed with industrial illnesses have to trace the insurer of their former employer to launch a claim.
But insurers argue that the wording of some of the insurance policies mean they are not responsible, because no symptoms were shown at the time of exposure to asbestos.
Three Court of Appeal judges were unable to agree on who should be liable for the claims.
This means that many could die without getting a penny in compensation.
The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the insurance industry over the “trigger issue”.
This is a dispute over whether disease starts when a worker is exposed to asbestos or when symptoms develop—up to 60 years later.
The insurers had seized on a judgment in an unrelated case two years ago which said liability was only “triggered” when the disease actually commenced.