Asbestos Victims Continue Battle For Justice At Supreme Court

‘Utter frustration’ for victims and their families as BAI confirms they will appeal

09.11.2010

Lawyers today confirmed that the battle to provide asbestos victims and their families with clarity as to whether they can recover damages for the fatal injuries they sustained at work decades ago will continue at the Supreme Court after insurer BAI* confirmed they will appeal.

The announcement comes just weeks after a complex judgment handed down at the Court of Appeal caused confusion for thousands of mesothelioma sufferers, insurance companies and businesses who had been hoping for a uniform judgment that determined once and for all who was responsible for compensating victims of negligent exposure to the deadly dust.

Expert lawyer Helen Ashton from Irwin Mitchell who represented one of the lead claimants in the case said at the time that it was now a matter of ‘pot luck’ as to which victims would be compensated.

She explained that the three judges were unable to agree on their position regarding an earlier High Court ruling that employers’ insurers on risk at the time of exposure were liable to pay out on claims for mesothelioma caused by exposure to lethal asbestos in the workplace. Instead, they found that in some cases the responsibility lay with the employer’s insurer at the onset of the tumour, which in some cases is 50 or 60 years later.

She said: “This further appeal by BAI will cause more delay and means more frustration for our clients, many of whom will not live to see this matter finally come to an end.

“We only hope that, in time, this development will lead to a uniform judgment that provides clarity for all parties involved in this litigation and justice for those that have been negligently exposed to asbestos.”

One of the lead claimants in the case is Ruth Durham who continued the legal battle in memory of her father Leslie Screach, the first person in this litigation to bring a claim. Today she expressed a sense of ‘extreme frustration’ after learning of the appeal. She said: “To date four judges have granted us justice for my father who died after being negligently exposed to asbestos.

“Now we learn that despite this overwhelming support we must continue to fight and, not only is it extremely frustrating, but it again forces us to continue living under a cloud, unable to move on with our lives or grieve properly for the loss of a loved one.” 

* BAI is the former Builders Accident Insurance Company Limited which is in run-off and in scheme of arrangement.

TIMELINE

2.10.2006  - Court proceedings issued out of High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division for lead case one, Ruth Melanie Durham.

3-31.6.2008 – Trial at Royal Courts of Justice before Mr Justice Burton

21.11.2008 - Judgment handed down

2.01.2009 - Appeals filed

11 – 23 November 2009- Court of Appeal hearing before Lord Justice Rix, Lady Justice Smith, Lord Justice Stanley Burnton. Judgment reserved.

08.10.2010 – Judgment handed down at Court of Appeal

03.11.2010 – BAI confirm they will appeal the decision handed down at the Court of Appeal