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Government climbs down on Mesothelioma proposals

Leading asbestos lawyer reacts to Government response to consultation on proposals to speed up settlement of mesothelioma claims

6 March 2014

The Government has published its response to the Reforming Mesothelioma Claims consultation, which it claims to have sought to speed up the process for people to recover compensation in mesothelioma cases where a liable employer or insurer is traced.

The consultation received 105 responses from representatives from all sides of the debate - including victims support groups, the judiciary, claimant and defendant lawyers, insurers and the medical profession.

It concluded that there was not a strong enough case to proceed with a series of measures such as a Mesothelioma Pre-Action Protocol, Fixed Recoverable costs regime and an Electronic Secure Mesothelioma Gateway.

Harminder Bains, Partner at Leigh Day, whose father died from mesothelioma, said: “This is the second attempt that the Government has made to introduce a Mesothelioma Protocol, the first attempt was in 2007. The ABI and the Defendant law firms confirmed that they supported the Government’s proposals, as these would reduce the number of claims that would go to court.

“I believe that this is the overriding objective of the ABI and the Government as this will prevent victims from having access to justice via the High Court’s mesothelioma fast track procedure.

“This fast track procedure is very effective yet the Government is failing to increase its capacity”.

“I acted on a case only a couple of weeks ago representing an elderly man who was dying from victim of mesothelioma. The lawyers representing the employers and insurance company are named as one of the supporters of the Mesothelioma Protocol. The defendant law firm fought the case tooth and nail and were forced to pay compensation ‘only’ as a result of the imminent trial.

“The defendant firm tried to delay the case from going to trial and even applied for the victim to not to be allowed to give evidence at his home.

“In my view the Government’s intentions are not to assist victims of mesothelioma but to assist those who have caused the mesothelioma and their paymasters, such as the Association of British Insurers, in preventing justice being done and fair payments being made or, in some cases, no payments being made whatsoever”.

“In addition, the Government has decided to apply Sections 44 and 46 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) to mesothelioma cases which they intend to implement in July 2014. This will cause great injustice to victims of mesothelioma who will have to pay success fees and insurance premiums from their own pockets."

Leigh Day, on behalf of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK, has begun Judicial Review proceedings against the Secretary of State for Justice in an effort to prevent sections 44 and 46 of the LASPO Act with regard to mesothelioma cases coming into force.

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