AN out-of-court settlement has been reached by a York law firm, in a legal challenge to determine how insurance companies should treat claims relating to asbestos deaths.

The settlement has been negotiated by national personal injury practice Corries Solicitors, in the action which was due to be heard at Birmingham High Court yesterday.

The Press reported on Monday that this involved a compensation claim being made by Silvia Gilligan, 69, a Staffordshire widow, whose husband, Fred, 74, a joiner, died four years ago from the deadly asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma.

The amount of the settlement against insurance companies Zurich and Excess, which provided liability cover at different times for Mr Gilligan's former employers Holland, Hannen & Cubitt (Midlands) Ltd, has not been disclosed.

Corries Solicitors, in Navigation Way, which has one of the largest dedicated asbestos legal teams in the UK, bought the action to seek a ruling against Holland, Hannen & Cubitt (Midlands) Ltd.

It was also to allow proceedings under third party rights against the company's insurers, Excess, which provided cover in the 1970s, when Mr Gilligan is alleged to have been exposed to asbestos, and Zurich which provided cover in the 1990s when the tumour is thought to have started to grow.

Personal injury lawyer Dominic Collingwood, of Corries Solicitors' asbestos team, had continued proceedings in Mrs Gilligan's compensation claim because both Excess and Zurich denied liability, but declined to provide the wordings of their policies so this could be checked.

Mr Collingwood said: "Fred Gilligan was one of many thousands of people in the UK who die from a painful asbestos-related cancer simply for going to work.

"While I am pleased that a settlement has been reached for Mrs Gilligan, the liability of insurance companies in these circumstances - where different insurers are in force at a time of exposure and the development of a tumour - still requires clarification by the courts.

"Until legal clarification is achieved I am sure that this issue will continue to rear its head, either in claims pursued by Corries Solicitors or those by other law firms facing a similar impasse."