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“Clarity, Consistency And Comfort” For Asbestos Victims At Supreme Court

Lawyer Representing Lead Case Says Judgment Also Provides Justice For Thousands Of Future Mesothelioma Victims


A lawyer representing the lead case in a landmark Supreme Court judgment handed down today (28 March) says it provides “clarity, consistency and comfort” for the families of thousands of mesothelioma victims by ruling that insurers who covered their employers at the time of exposure are liable for their illness.

The decision overturns a previous ‘split judgment’ ruling which would have left many unable to obtain justice and financial security for their families despite their loved ones becoming ill because of exposure to lethal asbestos in the workplace.

Expert lawyer Helen Ashton from Irwin Mitchell, who represented the lead claimant in the case, said she was delighted the judgment had found in favour of both her client and the other victims and families involved.

Ms Ashton said: “This long awaited judgment provides clarity, consistency and comfort for mesothelioma victims and their families. As well as the people currently directly affected by asbestos related disease, this judgment means that the thousands of people who are yet to be given the devastating news that they have the deadly illness will at least know that their families can get access to justice and receive the financial security they need.

“But the sad fact is that many victims of mesothelioma who have been awaiting the outcome of this appeal may not have lived long enough to know if their families will now receive the compensation they deserve.

“Asbestos related disease is the biggest killer in the workplace in Britain, causing more than 5,000 deaths every year. The number of people affected by mesothelioma is still rising and because of the time it can take for this illness to develop it is expected to peak around 2015.

“There have been repeated challenges to the entitlement to compensation of the asbestos victims by the defendants in this case. In the six years that have passed since it started, hundreds of people suffering will have died without knowing that this result will help provide for their families.”

Ms Ashton confirmed too that the news was a great relief to her client Ruth Durham, who had continued the legal battle in memory of her father Leslie Screach, the first person in this litigation to bring a claim and therefore the lead case throughout the six-year process

Mrs Durham said that, though her father had passed away from the fatal lung disease in 2003 after being exposed to the deadly asbestos fibres between 1963 and 1968 while working as a paint sprayer in west London, she had wanted to see justice done for him and other mesothelioma sufferers now and in years to come.

Ruth Durham said: “I am delighted to hear of the court’s decision which will now see justice done for my father and the other mesothelioma sufferers.

“I was determined to see this through with a positive outcome for all those who, like my dad, suffered so terribly because of someone else’s negligence.

“We had been very close, and really were good friends. During the Second World War, Dad learned to use sign language and when I decided to learn, we used to practise together. It became our special way of communicating with one another and, when he was diagnosed with cancer, he couldn't bring himself to tell me directly and just made the sign for Cancer to let me know the terrible news.

“I miss him every day and no sum of money will ever bring him back or make up for what he went through."

Ms Ashton said the ruling makes it very clear who is entitled to make a claim. She commented: “The previous ruling, which thankfully has been overturned, would have led to a pot luck situation where the very wording of their employer’s insurance policies, which many of the victims would not have even seen, would have been retrospectively reviewed to see whether they could bring a claim or not.

“The ruling will also have important wider implications for people suffering from all workplace illnesses. This will impact on anyone suffering illnesses or injuries at work that can take a long time to develop. People have the basic right to be able to go to work and come home unharmed from carrying out their general day to day duties.”


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

5.11.2011 – Hearing begins in Supreme Court

28.03.2012 – Supreme Court judgment handed down

If you or a loved one has been affected by an asbestos related illness, our solicitors can help you to claim compensation. See our Asbestos Claims page for more information.