Lawyer: New Red Tape Holding Back Mesothelioma Claims

Industrial Illness Lawyer Speaks Out

03.11.2009

A leading industrial illness lawyer says new layers of red tape could cause further heartache for the family members of Mesothelioma victims.

The families of people across the North East who died as a result of Mesothelioma could be affected by new requirements by HM revenue and Customs that will make it more difficult for them to establish whether or not they can make a legal claim against former employers who exposed them to asbestos.

Roger Maddocks, partner and industrial disease specialist at the North East office of law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the delays are piling on the heartache for families who have lost loved ones.

He said: “Mesothelioma is fast-acting and fatal – it kills thousands of people in the UK every year. In the majority of cases, the victims of the disease have been exposed to asbestos negligently by their former employers.

“But now the HMRC is causing unnecessary delays to the process. These people, who have lost family members in such a devastating way, are going through enough as it is and the faster these new requirements are scrapped the better.”

Identifying the exact employment history, along with where and when the exposure to asbestos took place, is a crucial element of the early stages of any claim.

The HMRC is now refusing to release these records to anyone but the legal executor or court-appointed administrator.

Mr Maddocks urged the authorities to revert to the way requests for information were previously handled.

“Employment records are a crucial element of Mesothelioma claims and we need to establish as quickly as possible which of the victims former employers played a part in risking their lives,” he added.

“There has never been a problem accessing these details before, but this new policy of the HMRC’s will impact on countless others around the region and the rest of the UK.

“Without exact records of where victim worked, and when, it will be next to impossible to build a case. It has always been difficult enough to build up a picture of someone’s employment history, especially as we are usually talking about something that happened decades ago.

“The HMRC will now not make information available to anyone other than a legal executor or a court-appointed administrator at a stage when we don’t even know if it will be possible to pursue a claim.”

Mr Maddocks is currently investigating a claim on behalf of Denise Hudson, from Sunderland, who lost her mother Ellen Anderson to asbestos-related disease Mesothelioma in December 2008.

It is believed Mrs Anderson, who was 66, was exposed to asbestos dust brought home on the overalls of her husband John, a Wearside shipyard worker.

Mesothelioma can develop up to 40 years or more after exposure to asbestos dust, so although Mr Anderson died aged 34 in 1973, it took over three decades for his widow to develop symptoms of the disease.

Mr Maddocks needs a detailed record of Mr Anderson’s employment history in order to establish which of his former employers was responsible for the third-party exposure of his wife to asbestos.

“Mrs Hudson lost one parent at a tragically young age and has now had the other taken from her too. Nothing can compensate her for what she has lost but a compensation payment may provide a small crumb of comfort to her,” he added.

Mrs Hudson described the cruelty with which Mesothelioma took her sadly-missed mother.

“She had a hard life. She was a fabulous woman, really great – my father died so long ago and she worked all her life to support three children,” she said.

“What happened to her came as a complete shock. She was diagnosed with the disease and then died within the year. It was a terribly cruel way to have her taken from us.

“She worked as a cashier at the local supermarket – there is no way she could have been exposed to asbestos in any way other that via my father’s overalls.

“My father worked really hard but always had a smile on his face. Sunday afternoons were the best - my dad would sit in his favourite chair and we’d watch the TV, like Black Beauty, together and then go out to play.

“It’s disgusting what he and so many other people had to go through at work back then.”