Since January 2010 Unite members and their families in the North East have received over £2 million compensation for asbestos related disease with help from specialist lawyers Thompsons Solicitors.

The union’s asbestos compensation experts successfully claimed damages for 67 Unite members and their families including 15 cases of the fatal asbestos related lung cancer mesothelioma.

In one mesothelioma case Unite assisted a member who was a maintenance fitter exposed to asbestos at ICI to recover £309,478 in compensation.

With Unite’s backing Thompsons also concluded a mesothelioma compensation claim for £128,000 within 11 weeks for a member who was exposed to asbestos when working for shipbuilder Swan Hunter.

Pleural Plaques Compensation

As a result of a campaign pursued by Unite the Government set up a compensation scheme in 2010 for people who had brought but not resolved a claim for pleural plaques before a House of Lords ruling which ended the right to claim damages in 2007. Thompsons has recovered around £2 million for pleural plaques clients under the scheme including 72 Unite members in the North East who received up to £5,000 each.

Unlike many other law firms in the region Thompsons dealt with pleural plaques claims for Unite members under the scheme free of charge so that they received 100% compensation.

Unite is set to fight to overturn a Court of Appeal decision, known as the trigger test case, which ruled in some cases that employer’s liability insurance is triggered not by the exposure to asbestos in the workplace, but by the development of the fatal cancer, mesothelioma, often many decades later when no insurance exists.

Thompsons are instructed by Unite to argue the legal case before the Supreme Court in December 2011.

Fight continues for fair compensation and justice

Karen Reay, Regional Secretary of Unite said: “Many of our members are affected by asbestos related disease due to the legacy of the region’s industrial past. Often they were not provided with adequate protection from asbestos and are now paying the price for their employer’s neglect. Others are currently at risk of exposure from the presence of asbestos in public sector workplaces and schools. We will continue to fight on behalf of these members and their families for fair compensation and justice.”

Ian McFall, National Head of Thompsons’ Asbestos Policy said: “The last 18 months have been a very trying time for families who have been affected by asbestos disease. With the support of Unite’s legal service it has been possible to conclude cases successfully for their members for the best possible levels of compensation in the shortest time frame and at no cost to them.

“We are particularly focussed at present on preparing for the Supreme Court appeal hearing in December in the ‘trigger issue test case’ when Unite will resist a challenge by insurers who are attempting to avoid paying compensation to mesothelioma sufferers and their families. The outcome of this case could be one of the most important decisions in the history of asbestos litigation.”