In this issue, we discuss the latest governmental decision to award mesothelioma sufferers with 100% compensation. A fantastic leap from only 80% offered in 2014. The Asbestos NHS treatment costs recovery Bill was recently overruled in the Supreme Court, despite its passing in 2013.
We take a look into the factors involving the Court’s decision. Asbestos and Asbestosis, two very similar words with two very different meanings. Discover their common misconceptions on page 3. We are also proud to present the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation on page 7. A legacy left by much loved entertainer Roy Castle after his fight with lung cancer.
We sincerely hope you enjoy this month’s issue. Thank you for reading and keep sharing!
Helena Cameron. Asbestos Justice Associate Director
Joint Union Asbestos Committee (@TheJUAC)
The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) is a trade union campaign to make all UK schools & colleges safe from the dangers of asbestos. www.juac.org.uk
Asbestorama Dotcom (@asbestorama)
Sharing knowledge and an ever-growing collection of asbestos-related images to increase asbestos awareness and safety.
Meso @ UoG (@MesoUoG)
The official twitter feed for medicinal chemistry-based mesothelioma research at the University of Greenwich, UK.
Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
We are the only charity in the UK wholly dedicated to defeating lung cancer, the biggest cancer killer in the world. www.roycastle.org
The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity
Imagine a future beyond cancer. At The Royal Marsden we’re dedicated to making this happen. We’re a world-leading innovation centre who pioneer new treatments that save lives. We use our research every day to provide the very best in diagnosis, treatment and care for our patients. This kind of pioneering work costs money. Support The Royal Marsden and you’re investing in a future beyond cancer
In December 2012 a Bill was introduced to the Welsh Assembly which, if passed, would have resulted in the Government being refunded by employers and insurers for the cost of treating asbestos disease patients.
The Bill was introduced by Mick Antoniw, a former solicitor who represented sufferers of asbestos related conditions. The NHS in Wales spends more than £2m each year treating those who suffer with asbestos diseases and Mr Antoniw hoped the Bill would allow the Welsh Government to recoup these costs from those who had caused the conditions or their associated insurers. As would be expected, insurance firms opposed the proposal. They argued that refunding the Government was unnecessary and impractical.
There were also concerns over where the funds would come from as costs such as these had not been taken into account when the policies were initially taken out. In addition to concerns of where money would come from, there were also issues surrounding where money would go to. The proposal sought to recover repayments to the Welsh Government, rather than to the specific parts of the NHS where treatment was provided. This did not support the Bill’s purpose of refunding the NHS.
In spite of the opposition, the Bill was passed by the Welsh Assembly in 2013. However, industrial firms and insurance companies took the matter to the UK Supreme Court and this month, the Welsh Assembly was overruled. The Welsh Assembly has the power to run their local NHS services as they see fit and this is demonstrated by those treated by Welsh GPs who do not have to pay for prescriptions.
However, the Supreme Court found that the Assembly had overstepped its authority in passing the Bill. It was said that insurers should not be given additional liabilities for asbestos exposure which occurred decades before the Bill was passed. This is not the first time that such a challenge has been brought to the Supreme Court but it is the first time the Welsh Assembly’s decision has been overturned. Upon hearing the decision, Mr Antoniw said it was “a constitutional setback for the Assembly”.
A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that the Bill “would have seen increased insurance premiums for Welsh businesses but no extra compensation for mesothelioma sufferers”.
If you, a family member or colleague are concerned about asbestos exposure, contact Asbestos Justice on 0800 038 6767 for expert legal advice.
Asbestos Justice dealt with a successful claim for mesothelioma compensation for Mrs B who sadly lost her husband in February of 2013.
Before he sadly passed, Mr B he spoke to his son about his asbestos exposure which occurred during the course of his work at the East Lancashire Paper Mill Company Ltd. He worked for the company as a process worker at their mill in Radcliffe between 1966/1967 and 1970/1971 approximately. Mr B made his son aware that during the course of the time he spent working at the mill, he recalled seeing a vast amount of steam pipes leading from boilers as the mill was steam powered. All of the pipes and boilers were lagged with a form of asbestos lagging which was used for heat insulation purposes.
Exposure to Asbestos
Whilst Mr B never had cause to remove or apply asbestos materials himself in his work as a paper manufacturing process worker, he was regularly nearby when other workers had cause to remove and apply the material, especially during periods of maintenance. Specifically, he could remember seeing fitters and maintenance men having cause to repair sections of damaged pipework.
In order to access the pipes underneath the lagging, the insulation material would have to be removed. The Mr B explained to his son that the workers would use chisels and other types of tools to remove the asbestos lagging which was essentially set over the pipework and boilers. As they removed the asbestos materials, much asbestos dust would be released into the general atmosphere which he and his colleagues could not help but inhale.
Mr B explained to his son that clouds of asbestos dust would be present around the mill, especially during periods of maintenance. Whilst the asbestos removal work could take place on a continuous basis during periods of maintenance, there would also be regular instances of asbestos materials being removed on an ad-hoc basis as and when repairs were necessary.
Mr B explained to his son that he was never provided with any form of respiratory protection during the course of the time he spent working at the paper mill. The asbestos lagging would regularly cover the mill floor and as he and his colleagues walked through it, the asbestos dust would rise up again into the atmosphere which he could not help but inhale.
His father also explained that the asbestos lagging was often in a damaged and brittle state. He explained that he could see the fibrous material breaking away which resulted in some asbestos fibres floating around in the general atmosphere which all workers inhaled throughout the course of the working day.
His father explained to him that coming into contact with asbestos in these ways was a regular occurrence during the course of the time he spent working for the paper mill. He was never warned of the dangers of being exposed to asbestos materials when working for this company.
Asbestos Justice managed to locate employer’s liability insurance for the paper mill and it was argued that this passive exposure to asbestos resulted in him developing asbestos related mesothelioma in later life and negligent exposure was conceded by the Defendant.
However, there were problems in this case in that the pathologist at post mortem concluded that Mr B did not pass away due to mesothelioma even though this asbestos related cancer was diagnosed by way of biopsy during his lifetime. Asbestos justice secured medical evidence which cast considerable doubt on the conclusions reached by the pathologist, which ultimately improved prospects of recovering mesothelioma compensation for Mrs B following her tragic loss.
A Successful Win
The Defendant eventually accepted the view expressed in the medical evidence that Mr B did in fact pass away due to mesothelioma and the case settled shortly thereafter for £158,000.00 in total. Even though the pathologist’s views caused problems in this case, the matter still settled within a 12 month period for Mrs B.
Asbestos Justice welcomes the recent decision of the coalition government to award mesothelioma sufferers with 100% of the average court settlement award under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme. The scheme was introduced during 2014 as a “scheme of last resort” to assist mesothelioma claimants in recovering compensation in circumstances where they are unable to locate their past employer or their insurers.
Originally, the scheme only allowed for mesothelioma sufferers to claim for 80% of the average value of a mesothelioma compensation award under a listed, online tariff which takes into account the sufferer’s age. At the time of the scheme’s introduction, Asbestos Justice were concerned that the scheme had been introduced with the 80%
cap but the recent change which will allow sufferers to claim the 100% figure from this week is certainly a step in the right direction to ensure mesothelioma sufferers recover the compensation
The Minister for Disabled people, Mark Harper at the Department for Work and Pensions said that the increase follows monitoring of the progress of the scheme, which has shown that fewer
claimants than anticipated have used it. In a statement he was reported to say:-
“I made it clear through the passage of the Mesothelioma Act that I planned to monitor the scheme to gauge the extent that the assumptions made when it was being set up had been borne out in practice and would also consider the impact on the insurance companies who pay for it.”
To qualify for an award, those diagnosed with the incurable asbestos related cancer must show that they would have had a reasonable prospect of winning their claim against their former
employer if this was traced. Frustratingly, the new changes will not be backdated to compensate those who were paid out under the old criteria, leaving many mesothelioma sufferers out of pocket.
James Cameron of Asbestos Justice added:-
“As the DWP have admitted that the scheme has been used far less than they anticipated, surely there are more funds in the pot to ensure past recipients of 80% awards under the scheme will be compensated fully following their diagnosis, as well as future sufferers of this terrible disease. It is frustrating that 100% mesothelioma compensation payments were not made available at the outset.
There is also still a concern in relation to the level of mesothelioma compensation awards made under the scheme. A maximum pay out will total £216,896.00 and this falls far short of a number of awards Asbestos Justice as recovered for mesothelioma sufferers over the years.
For example, I recovered £455,000.00 for one of my clients after tracing the offending employer’s insurers. Had the case been run today under the scheme, without insurance being traced, in theory my client would be left significantly under-compensated. The scheme will fall short in providing full compensation for mesothelioma victims and is certainly not a fix all.”
Claimants under the scheme are able to file applications for payments online themselves. However, it is often advantageous to instruct specialist asbestos disease solicitors to assist them with
the application as documentation has to be prepared to form part of the application to prove employment, confirm that no insurance has been traced and to show that the claim stood a reasonable chance of succeeding against the untraced employer.
James Cameron added:-
“The scheme allows for a £7,000.00 contribution to mesothelioma sufferers’ legal costs. If less than £7,000.00 is incurred in assisting our clients, they get to keep the balance of this £7,000.00 sum which would leave them with more funds to assist with their on-going needs.”
If you are concerned about asbestos in the workplace and are suffering with breathing problems, please contact Asbestos Justice on 0800 038 6767 for free legal advice without obligation.
Asbestos and Asbestosis, two very similar words with two very different meanings. Many people can sometimes confuse the terms and use them interchangeably.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals which have been used widely in many sorts of construction and manufacturing over many decades. Asbestos mining began more than 4,000 years ago, although it started on a large-scale basis towards the end of the 19th century.
The mineral was considered to have many beneficial properties including being fire and heat resistant, relatively cheap and excellent as an electrical insulator.The fact that it was in plentiful supply and useful for so many needs meant that it became increasingly used throughout most of the 20th Century.
Use of the material is now banned in the UK and in many other countries, however, it is said that the figures from 2009 showed that around 2 million tons of asbestos were still mined per year mainly in Russia, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan and Canada.
What is Asbestosis?
Asbestosis, or asbestos related fibrosis, is a lung condition caused by excessive exposure to asbestos. Asbestosis is defined as a non-cancerous fibrous hardening and scarring of the lungs. The effects of the fibrosis on the lungs cause breathing difficulties for the sufferer especially on exertion.
The condition is usually detected by way of a chest x-ray or CT scan. A patient may also undergo lung function tests to assess the capacity of the lungs and whether there has been any restriction. There is, unfortunately, no cure for asbestosis but physiotherapy and provision of oxygen can be used to help alleviate symptoms.
How long until I notice symptoms of Asbestosis?
The latency period for asbestosis, that is to say the period between exposure to asbestos and the development of symptoms associated with asbestosis, is generally between 20 and 30 years. Given that workers are no longer exposed to asbestos in the quantities that they were previously, it is thought that the vast majority of people who will ever be diagnosed with asbestosis will have been diagnosed already.
The kind of heavy exposure to asbestos required to cause asbestosis ceased in approximately the 1970’s. However, it is possible that people who have been suffering with symptoms of asbestosis for a number of years might not yet have been diagnosed and we still see from time to time clients who have been diagnosed with this condition.
Claiming for asbestosis
When considering claims for asbestosis we have to consider in detail the extent of the exposure that you have experienced. A full and detailed work history will be taken detailing how and to what extent you were exposed to asbestos. We also take a full and detailed medical history including a thorough review of medical records.
We have to be aware of non-asbestos related fibrosis or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis which might be confused with asbestosis if it occurs on a background of asbestos exposure.
If a sufferer of fibrosis suffers a quick deterioration in health it is unlikely to be asbestosis. Asbestosis is generally a slowly progressive condition. As discussed above, there also needs to have been heavy exposure to asbestos, for example involvement with lagging or de-lagging of asbestos. Such exposure after the 1970’s is unlikely hence the incidence of asbestosis diagnoses is less than it previously was.
Helena Cameron of Asbestos Justice recently acted for a client who had developed asbestosis as a result of his exposure to asbestos whilst working for several engineering companies.
Mr. W was employed as a plumber and was exposed to asbestos on a frequent basis as he carried out work in commercial premises including schools and hospitals. His work involved using preformed asbestos lagging for pipes and boilers. He was exposed to significant quantities of asbestos over a period of approximately 20 years.
His employers failed to provide him with a mask or any breathing equipment and so he inevitably inhaled large quantities of asbestos dust and fibres. Approximately 30 years after he was last exposed to asbestos, Mr. W began to suffer with breathing difficulties and developed a chest infection.
He was referred for a chest x-ray and CT scan and a diagnosis of asbestosis was made. He was advised by the Consultant to seek legal advice in relation to a claim for compensation.
We successfully pursued a claim against three of his previous employers and a settlement in the sum of £39,000 was agreed. The terms of the provisional settlement allow Mr. W. to return for further compensation in the future should his condition deteriorate or in the event that he develops mesothelioma or asbestos related lung cancer.
“I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for the extremely professional, tenacious and diligent approach that you adopted throughout the course of dealing with my mother’s claim for Mesothelioma compensation, following the sad passing of my father.
When I first approached you, I was not confident that you would be able to achieve a successful outcome but I clearly underestimated your knowledge and expertise! You managed to speak to former employees who remembered working alongside my father and their evidence assisted you in establishing liability for my father’s death. To achieve this level of accountability came as some comfort to my mother and me at a very difficult time.
The level of service I received throughout the duration of the process from James Cameron at Asbestos Justice was superb. I was advised and kept informed in a friendly and professional manner every step of the way. I cannot recommend your services in this area enough. The settlement that you have obtained has given my mother peace of mind and financial security for the remainder of her years, and for that I shall remain indebted and sincerely grateful.” – Mrs H, Birmingham
Pleural Plaques Testimonial
“I cannot begin to express my gratitude, to you personally and all your colleagues, for all the help you have accorded me over the last 3 years whilst you have been proceeding with my claim for pleural thickening compensation. The knowledge and expertise you have shown me, the kindness, tolerance and patience explaining to me in such detail all aspects and practicalities of my case have been second to none.
I would have great confidence and no hesitation in recommending you to anyone who requires legal advice in this area, knowing full well they would receive nothing less than the highest standards of care.” – Mr. O, Tyne & Wear.
Asbestosis’ First Victim
Asbestosis claimed its very first victim in 1922. A young 13 year old Nellie Kershaw worked at the Turner Brothers Asbestos Company, Rochdale factory as a rover, spinning the asbestos fibre into yarn.
By 1922, Nellie fell extremely ill and she was no longer able to work. Her doctor had diagnosed her with the occupational disease, Asbestosis . Despite Nellie suffering from the painful affects of Asbestosis, she was ineligible for any compensation based on the fact that it was simply an occupational disease. Both Nellie and her husband contributed frequently to a local scheme for sickness benefits yet were denied to any help. Even her pleas for help to her employees went unheard.
At only 33 years old, Nellie sadly passed away on 24th March 1924, leaving her two children and husband to survive in poverty. Nellie now lies in an unmarked ‘paupers’ grave in a Rochdale cemetery.  The Turner brothers saw Nellie’s death as a threat to the Rochdale factory and demanded Nellie’s doctor to remove the mentioning of ‘asbestos poisoning’ from her medical records.
However, despite the Turner family’s efforts to cover the real reason of Nellie’s death, the coroner who examined Nellie’s lungs discovered that her death was caused by:
“…fibrosis of the lungs due to inhalation of mineral particles.”
The term ‘asbestosis’ was used for the very first time in Nellie’s death report which was published in the British Medical Journal that same year.
There are numerous state benefits which you may be able to claim if your asbestos related disease was caused whilst in employment. For Expert advice call 0800 038 6767.
What is it?
The 2008 Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme came into operation on 1 October 2008. Its purpose is to ensure that all mesothelioma sufferers (or their dependants) receive a payment. It plugs a gap
whereby previously only employees would receive a payment from the state. Now, if a sufferer is exposed in the UK they will be entitled to a payment. This means that people exposed outside of work can claim under this scheme, this includes:
- Cases of secondary exposure, that is from coming into contact with asbestos from a relative, for example by washing their clothes;
- Cases of environmental exposure, for example living near an asbestos factory;
- Exposure to asbestos while self-employed;
- Exposure cannot be specified but it occurred in the United Kingdom
The scheme therefore rights a very grave wrong, and provides payment to a significant category of sufferers who previously would have received nothing from any source.
The Qualifying Conditions
There must be evidence that the person suffers from diffuse mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos:
- The person must have been exposed to asbestos in the UK;
- The sufferer must make a claim within 12 months of
- If a dependant, the claim must be applied for within 12 months of the date of the person’s death.
Who can claim?
The mesothelioma sufferer, or any of the following people:
- The married widow or widower of a sufferer who has died; or
- The child of a sufferer who is under the age of 16, or under the age of 21 but not in full time employment;
- The partner of a sufferer has to have been living with the sufferer up to the date of death and there must not be a married widow or widower still alive; or
- Any other relative who was dependant on the sufferer at the time of his death
If you would like to know more or would like us to apply for a payment under the 2008 Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme on your behalf, please contact us on 0800 038 6767.
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos disease, finding the right help can be difficult. Our advice is to speak to your own treating medical team to consider the best available treatment options available to you, including Trials as there are many other specialist hospitals providing the same specialist service.
To help your search, we have compiled a list of treatment and trial centres below based in the UK for asbestos disease.