Unite the union has been successful in recovering damages for a victim of asbestos despite attempts by insurers to avoid liability.

Electrician Ken Morton, 70, from the Wirral was diagnosed with asbestosis with a 2-3% disability in 2006 after retiring from a 45-year career where he was exposed to asbestos on a regular basis.

Investigations by Unite's lawyers Thompsons Solicitors proved he was negligently exposed to asbestos working for Campbell & Isherwood Limited during various periods from 1954 to 1983 at different sites across the UK.

Their insurers admitted Campbell & Isherwood Limited was at fault for exposing Mr Morton to asbestos but refused to pay out following the House of Lords decision on pleural plaques, which stopped compensation payments for the condition.

Asbestosis is not the same as pleural plaques

Thompsons pursued the case on principle arguing that asbestosis is not the same as pleural plaques and on the facts of the case it was a compensatable disease. The case was successful when the insurers finally agreed a provisional settlement of £5000 just four days before trial.

Mr Morton said: “The asbestosis has left me breathless and I dread getting a cold because it can last for weeks. I felt it was important to prove that my former employers were to blame for causing it. I am pleased my case has finally settled but I’m disgusted at the lengths the insurers went to try getting out of paying.”

Paul Finegan from Unite said: “The House of Lords decision on pleural plaques has ramifications which stretch into other types of work related injury. It has left the door open for insurers to argue that compensation should not be paid to those diagnosed with other asbestos related conditions. This must be nipped in the bud to protect the rights of those with asbestos related disease and discourage employers from taking risks with workers’ lives.”

Joanne Candlish from Thompsons Solicitors said: “This case shows how insurers were prepared to use the pleural plaques decision in an attempt to extend the types of claim where they could avoid paying compensation.

“Mr Morton clearly had a disability, albeit a modest one, which is affecting him daily. It is only right he should receive compensation. The provisional settlement means that Mr Morton has the benefit of some compensation now and the security of knowing that if his condition deteriorates or he develops a more serious asbestos disease in the future he can obtain further compensation. The level of his current disability was reflected in the amount of immediate compensation he received.”