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U.K. Supreme Court unanimously rules against asbestos-related Welsh bill

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The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled that the U.K. Welsh Assembly exceeded the scope of its authority when it passed a bill requiring firms and insurers to reimburse the U.K.’s National Health Service for medical services provided to patients suffering from asbestos-related illnesses.

The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases Bill, passed in 2013, allowed the NHS to collect reimbursement from “persons by whom or on whose behalf compensation payments are made to or in respect of victims of asbestos-related diseases,” according to court records. This included employers’ liability insurers that cover firms deemed responsible for asbestos exposures.

The Association of British Insurers had opposed the bill in court, arguing in court filings that the bill exceeded the Welsh Assembly’s legislative competence.

A U.K. Supreme Court five-justice panel unanimously ruled Friday that the Welsh Assembly acted outside of its legislative competence in regards to the organization and funding of the NHS, and that the bill was incompatible with the rights of “compensators and insurers to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions.”

“The new financial liabilities of compensators and insurers would arise from asbestos exposure and liability insurance policies which long pre-dated the bill,” according to a summary of the court’s ruling.