Michael Gove, the new Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, suffered another high profile defeat in the High Court on the 3rd July of this year which specifically referred to two new legislative orders.
The first order related to Civil Proceedings and Family Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2015/576 and the second being the Civil Proceedings Fees Order 2008/1053.
As a result of these two pieces of legislation, a vast number of mesothelioma sufferers and their families are faced with being responsible for new prohibitively high court fees which asbestos disease solicitors like ourselves argue, will restrict access to justice in mesothelioma claims.
Following the introduction of the government’s draconian legislative provisions form earlier this year, court proceedings have become even more expensive. Fees that are charged can now be as high as nearly £10,000 to bring a claim for mesothelioma compensation, thus exposing mesothelioma sufferers and their families to a much higher costs burden when attempting to pursue employers and their insurers for mesothelioma compensation. The higher court fees affect mesothelioma claims due to their significant value, with typical awards of between £100,000.00 and £300,000.00, as a broad average, being made in mesothelioma claims.
In the said High Court case, lawyers, who represented The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK in conjunction with two mesothelioma sufferers, successfully argued that the typical mesothelioma sufferers are of modest means. Whilst some Claimants would be able to apply for a fee remission and avoid being responsible for paying the astronomical court fees, most would not as it is common for mesothelioma sufferers to receive one off lump sums of compensation through governmental schemes such as is the case in applications made under the Pneumoconiosis Workers’ Compensation Act of 1979.
It was argued that the majority of Claimants in mesothelioma claims would have capital in excess of the £16,000.00 fee remission cap, therefore exposing them to a liability to pay the higher court fees.
One of the key arguments made on the Claimants’ side was that, unfortunately as a result of the short life expectancy faced by mesothelioma sufferers, it was inequitable to expect them to give up their disposable income in the final months of life, when they needed available funds the most.
In noting the judgment made by the court, Mr. Gove has now agreed on behalf of the government to introduce an amendment to the legislation to exclude the ‘lump sum’ payment referred to in any calculation of disposable capital, whenever a fee remission application is considered. This decision was made before the official Judicial Review was due to take place. Therefore, it is considered that this should now assist some mesothelioma sufferers and their families in obtaining an order for court fee remission with a view to protecting their governmental awards.
Whilst the aggressive attitude taken by the government is indicative of their recent attacks on mesothelioma claims and victims’ rights to access to justice and the court system in general,at least this small success has brought some long awaited good news to those who seek mesothelioma compensation after being affected by this terrible, incurable asbestos related cancer.