Lawyers Hope EDM On Mesothelioma Bill Is ‘Food For Thought’

MPs Describe Exclusions In New Scheme As ‘Unacceptable And Untenable’


By Rob Dixon

Asbestos-related disease specialists with long-held concerns that a new scheme to support mesothelioma victims excludes thousands of people from help have revealed their hopes that an early day motion (EDM) published this week criticising the plans will provide ‘food for thought’ to the Government.

The Mesothelioma Bill was included in the Queen’s Speech and will lead to the creation of a scheme funded by insurers that will help victims of the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma who are unable to trace their employer’s insurer to seek justice over their exposure to the deadly material.

While the EDM, sponsored by Sir Alan Meale MP, welcomed the introduction of the system to help both victims and their families, it criticised the decision to exclude those who were diagnosed before July 25th last year.

The EDM stated that the scheme was “unacceptable, untenable, unjustifiable and arbitrary”, as only half of victims would be able to get compensation through it.

Irwin Mitchell’s Asbestos-Related Disease team has had concerns over the scheme since it was announced in July last year. As well as being against the July 25th 2012 cut-off date, the team’s other concerns include:

That the settlements are reported likely to be 30 per cent lower than the current average levels of compensation, meaning victims could miss out on around £52,000
That it will only include those suffering from mesothelioma and not victims of other asbestos-related illnesses

Adrian Budgen, national head of asbestos litigation at Irwin Mitchell, said: “News of this latest EDM is very welcome and it is vital that this provides some important food for thought to the Government about the limitations of the scheme it is introducing.

“It is welcome that the government has tried to address the very difficult issue of being unable to trace an insurer, but the exclusion of so many other victims of asbestos will mean that so many families are going to be frozen out of vital support.

“The scheme also fails to consider how cases are unique and the suggestion of a lower level of compensation on average simply may not be adequate in certain cases.

“Quite simply, victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases deserve to know that they are going to gain justice over the problems they have endured, as well as access to full and fair financial security for their loved ones.

Adrian added: “The Government’s work is also continuing with consultations on running other mesothelioma cases via a portal scheme. However, considering the complexity and thorough investigations needed in such cases, we are concerned that this would impact on access to justice.

“While it is vital that these issues are being considered, it is important that Westminster gets the approach right. We hope that this EDM will emphasise the huge need to provide comprehensive support to victims of asbestos and we hope it will lead to further considerations of this issue among MPs.”

Mesothelioma victim Richard Sewell, of Breedon-On-The-Hill in Derbyshire, was diagnosed with the incurable condition on 31 January 2012. He believes he was exposed to the deadly dust while working for W J Simms Sons and Cooke Ltd, which was based in Sherwood in Nottingham, and is now a defunct company.

He began working for the firm aged 16 in April 1953 and completed a five-year plumbing apprenticeship and then worked as a qualified plumber for two years, working on various buildings including power stations, schools and hospitals across the country.

He specifically remembers handling asbestos roofing sheets, guttering and pipes and lagging boilers with asbestos insulation. He also recalls scrambling over pipe work which was lagged with asbestos. 

Irwin Mitchell worked with Richard to investigate the working conditions he endured and to try to track down the insurance policy details for W J Simms Sons and Cooke Ltd.  However, despite strenuous efforts, an employer’s liability insurance policy could not be traced and, because he was diagnosed with mesothelioma before July 2012, he will not be entitled to justice under the new scheme.

The 76-year-old father of two, who lives at home with his wife, Nell, said: “It’s incredibly disappointing that the insurance scheme will not provide for many thousands of people like me who were diagnosed before July 2012. Employers’ insurance was compulsory from 1972 so it seems convenient that some policies just seem to have disappeared.

“I’ve worked hard all my life to provide for my family so to find out that my employers may have put me at risk of contracting this terrible illness without any warning or protection is just devastating.

“It’s disgraceful and just seems madness that people diagnosed just days apart with the same condition caused by asbestos exposure are set to be treated so differently. Payments from the scheme would give me a sense of justice for what I’ve been through and peace of mind that my family were taken care of financially when I’m gone.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Asbestos Compensation