Lawyer Says Victims Must Be Protected And Current Funding Regime Must Stay

Devastated Widow Urges Government To Rethink Plans

17.10.2011

THE DEVASTATED widow of a man who died of asbestos-related cancer on New Year’s Day has urged the Government to rethink its plans to make changes to no win no fee funding.

Supported by experts in asbestos law from Irwin Mitchell, Celia Douthwaite, 68, from Wetherby, is launching legal action against her husband’s former employers as it is believed he was exposed to deadly asbestos dust through his work as a joiner in his former workplace.

Devoted husband and dad-of-three Ean was 70 when he died in January from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibres.

His family say that without the current system of no win no fee funding, also known as CFA (Conditional Fee Agreements), they may not have been able to pursue a claim against Ean’s former employers as they could have faced paying costs.

Ian Bailey, Partner at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds Office and expert in asbestos law, is representing the family in their bid to secure financial stability for their future, particularly Ean and Celia’s son Peter, who suffers from Rieger's syndrome and as a result will never be able to live independently.

Bailey explained: “This is the early stages of a case which has allowed Ean’s family to pursue a battle for justice in a bid to secure funds that will help replace the care he would have provided long term for his son.

He continues: “Losing a loved one to an asbestos release disease is devastating for families and often the thought of pursuing justice is a daunting task. Families have enough to worry about at a time of receiving news of a loved one’s terminal illness without the additional worry of potentially paying their own legal costs when they have been the victim of an employer’s negligence.

“The current system works for the injured party, not against, and I’d urge the Government to seriously rethink its plans for the benefit of asbestos victims and their families.”

Commenting on her family’s ordeal, Celia said: “To lose Ean was utterly devastating. The last thing we expected when he started to become breathless was the news that the work he’d done many years before as a joiner working with sheets of asbestos would kill him. And to lose him on New Year's Day, such a special family time, was almost too much to bear. 

 “He was such a huge part of all our lives, a real family man, and the main carer for our son Peter, we all relied on him so much.”

She goes on to explain: “Nothing can ever replace Ean or the huge hole losing him has left in our lives but he would have wanted us to be secure financially in the future, and for us to be compensated for losing him to this dreadful illness caused by nothing more than him going to work and not being looked after properly by his employer.

“I fear for others who are in the same position and will be put off making a claim because could face having to pay some of their own costs. I’m behind the campaign to stop this from happening 100 per cent and hope people who can influence this decision sit up and listen to my story.”

Celia’s call comes as The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill continues to progress through parliament. Other victims, families and asbestos support groups across the country have written to MPs and ministers urging them to vote against civil litigation reform.