T&N’s Insurance Loopholes Explored
Asbestos & The Law was the title of a legal conference held in Liverpool on 7 March, 2002. Solicitors, victim support representatives, academics and civil servants listened to speakers address subjects such as asbestos-related diseases, welfare benefits, proposed UK asbestos regulations and their implementation, legal developments (i.e. the ramifications of the Fairchild decisions) and issues relating to T&N Ltd.
Two presentations focused on T&N, formerly the UK’s biggest asbestos producer. In A Voyage of Discovery, Geoffrey Tweedale discussed his research at the huge T&N document archive in Manchester: "The T&N archive highlights exactly how long the asbestos industry has been dealing with this hazardous material…T&N’s strategy was to ‘stretch’ government dust regulations to suit its own ends, while it tried to persuade the government to remove asbestos from the list of ‘dangerous trades’." According to Tweedale, the documents included a "vast collection of compensation and common law claims files." He said: "These claim files must be amongst the most tragic documents in British industrial history… they show above all (i) the negligence of T&N in allowing poor working conditions to exist unchecked for over many decades; and (ii) the miserable and unjust sums of compensation paid to injured asbestos workers. The documents show T&N avoiding liability (often by the most unscrupulous means) and shifting the costs to victims and their dependents."
In October, 2002, T&N Ltd. was put into administration in the UK; all legal actions against the company were frozen at that time. As injured workers are now looking for other sources of compensation, accurate information on T&N’s insurers has become vital. Laurie Kazan-Allen’s paper: T&N An Insurance Fiasco focused on four decades of the Group’s insurance cover. Drawing on years of research and study of corporate memos, Board Meeting Minutes and newly released insurance documents, she explained that although some of the company’s insurance policies had had exclusions for asbestosis, claims for mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and pleural thickening should still be viable. Information on policies taken out with the Midland Employers’ Mutual Assurance Ltd., The Royal Insurance Company Ltd., Winterthur International Ltd., New Hampshire Insurance Company and the Lloyd’s of London Bryan Smith Syndicate was presented. Kazan-Allen said: "It is my understanding that the administration order can be set aside by the administrators in certain instances. It is possible that as the insurance position becomes clearer, applications by solicitors for the order to be set aside so that asbestos claims might be brought against insurers could be viewed sympathetically."
Furthermore, exclusions which post-1972 insurance policies included to protect insurers from T&N’s asbestos claims are, according to several solicitors, unenforceable. According to Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire: "Insofar as asbestos victims are concerned, under the terms of the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 and the 1971 regulations following thereon, asbestos liabilities could not be excluded in any such policy as a matter of law."
March 10, 2002