Lords slash asbestos compensation03 May 2006
Massive cuts in compensation for the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma
The employers of two men who died of mesothelioma have won an appeal to change the law, with the result that their widows, Sylvia Barker and Mary Murray, will not get full compensation.
Both widows have lost an appeal mounted by their husbands’ former employers to change the law, because their late husbands had more than one employer and at least one of those no longer exists or was not insured.
The decision will deprive thousands of claimants of their full entitlement to compensation for mesothelioma. The law lords’ decision follows the defeat of an attempt by insurers to end compensation for mesothelioma sufferers altogether in test cases in 2002. The insurance industry is now likely to save tens of millions of pounds annually.
The legal team that represented the families includes the specialist law firms Thompsons Solicitors and John Pickering & Partners.
Ian McFall, Head of Asbestos Litigation for Thompsons Solicitors, who act for Mrs. Murray, on behalf of her husband’s trade union the GMB, explains: “The court has, on a legal technicality which will make no sense to anyone but the driest of lawyers, deprived our client of full compensation for the death of her husband. The real winner here is the insurance industry which now stands to save billions of pounds. We will be urging Trade Unions and asbestos victim support groups to press for legislation to counteract this gross injustice."
Mary Murray, 84, from Sunderland, Tyne & Wear comments: “I’ve had 7 years of misery since John died a painful death from this terrible disease. Employers and insurance companies care more about the money than they do about being fair to people like me and my husband who suffered so much. John didn’t want to die and he certainly didn’t want his employers who killed him to avoid their legal responsibility. Justice hasn’t been done.”
Representing Mrs Barker, James Thompson from Pickering & Partners comments: “The lords seem to be saying that employers can be excused paying in full for their past law breaking activities while their insurers and their shareholders will get a multi-million pound windfall, even though in the UK they can well afford to pay full asbestos compensation. Severe financial hardship will result from individual awards being slashed by tens of thousands of pounds. We call on parliament to correct this massive injustice.”
Sylvia Barker, 58, of Hollywell, Flintshire said: “I’m angry that after these people took away Vernon’s life, they are adding insult to injury. They admitted that they should have protected him from asbestos. I can’t understand why the House of Lords would change the law to save them paying for what they have done.”
This important change in the law has far reaching implications: 1,800 people die each year of mesothelioma and the numbers are rising. Many had contact with asbestos in more than one job. It is common for employers to have ceased trading, with no trace of their insurers. The majority of people diagnosed with mesothelioma were innocent employees who were exposed to asbestos at work without being warned of the dangers.
Trade Union, ASLEF covered this story within the June 2006 edition of their 'Locomotive Journal'. To read the story visit page 19 entitled "Insurers will profit from asbestos ruling (PDF) ".
This story has also been reported by the BBC. To read the BBC coverage, visit "Widows Lose Asbestos Court Ruling".