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Award presented to lawyer for her legal work and anti-asbestos campaigning

Campaigning anti-asbestos lawyer Harminder Bains has been presented with an award in recognition of her many years of groundbreaking and hugely successful legal work on behalf of victims of asbestos disease.

Posted on 07 September 2022

The Asbestos Victims Support Forum UK (AVSF) (The Forum) paid tribute to Harminder’s formidable reputation for her legal work in the field of asbestos. She is one of the country’s leading litigators as a consequence, of succeeding in cases in the Supreme Court and winning several judicial reviews.   

Joanne Gordon, the chair of AVSF UK presented Harminder with the award which stated “With thanks & appreciation for your hard work and dedication to anti-asbestos campaigning.” 
Harminder, a partner at Leigh Day, first succeeded in a Judicial Review in 2013, when the founder and the then chair of the Forum, Tony Whitston instructed her on the Government’s proposals to reform mesothelioma claims.  The Forum won the case, as they argued that the proposals had proceeded on an invalid basis and on a number of false assumptions. 

Harminder Bains and Joanne Gordon.

A few months later in 2014, Tony Whitston instructed Harminder again and the Forum successfully overturned the Government’s decision that mesothelioma sufferers should, upon winning their case, pay up to 25 per cent of their compensation for legal costs.  As a consequence of this win, to this day mesothelioma claims are one of the few areas in law in which claimants are entitled to receive 100 per cent of their compensation and the defendants pay all legal costs, including the success fees to the Claimant’s lawyers.  Disturbingly this case also revealed that there had been a “secret agreement” between the Association of British Insurers and the Government. 
Harminder also represented Dr Robin Rudd, a leading asbestos medical expert, who brought a claim against John Bridle, an asbestos lobbyist who claims chrysotile products are safe. John Bridle wrote to the General Medical Council claiming that Dr Rudd was preparing court reports deliberately claiming chrysotile was dangerous, simply for fees.  The case defended the reputation of Dr Rudd, a medical professional who presents information about the health of asbestos victims when they seek compensation for their illnesses. 
In light of her reputation, Harminder was spied on by the asbestos industry and alerted the Forum and other campaigners by naming the spy.  In addition, she was the first claimant to start a legal case against the spy, so that the asbestos industry’s tactics could be brought to light. 
As a consequence of Harminder’s campaigning over the years on anti-asbestos issues, in 2017 she discovered that the legal case between Cape and Concept 70 had been settled on a “confidential basis” before the court had had a chance to give its judgment and the parties had agreed between themselves to “destroy the documents imminently”.
Tony Whitston gave urgent instructions to apply that the documents be preserved and to be handed to the Forum who would then place them into the public domain.  Subsequently Graham Dring, the then chair on behalf of the Forum, fought the case tooth and nail for over three years.  Cape hired a magic circle firm and numerous QCs whereas Harminder dealt with the case with one QC and one junior counsel on a pro-bono basis.  This meant she and counsel received no fees for their work.  
The Forum won their case and the documents are now publicly available on the Forum’s website.
The landmark court case brought by the Forum resulted in revelations that Cape was aware of the potential death risks faced by its workers while dealing with its products Asbestos Insulation Board/Asbestolux between 1958 and the mid 1970s.
These documents provide evidence as to the asbestos industry’s “real knowledge” as to the risk of asbestos and how it interfered with the Government’s regulation of asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s.
As the documents reveal the “shameful legacy” of the asbestos industry in the UK which put profit before safety, the Forum is now calling for Cape to pay £10 million towards medical research to find a cure for mesothelioma.  Two protests have been arranged on Friday 30 September 2022 at 1pm in Rotherham and Warrington. 
Harminder Bains said:
“As a result of my own father sadly dying from mesothelioma 22 years ago, I am only too aware of the devastation that asbestos brings to victims and their families.  I wholly support the work of the Forum and were it not for their determination to stand up to the asbestos industry, the legal cases above would never have been brought.  Their agreement to continue the Cape case against all odds shows they are a force to be reckoned with and I for one will be proud to stand alongside them at the protests.” 

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