Resounding Court Victory for Mesothelioma Sufferers


In the High Court yesterday, campaigners won a legal battle against the Ministry of Justice, in which defeat would have meant that mesothelioma victims and their families would have to pay up to 25% of their compensation in legal fees.

Justice for Mesothelioma sufferers and their families

Why did this end up in Court?

The problem began when a new law came into force, known as the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, also known as LASPO. The law changed the playing field for legal firms who handle personal injury and industrial illness claims. It did this by forcing their clients, those who are harmed as a result of the actions of others, to pay a fee for winning their claim, as well as any legal insurance they take out to finance the claim.

Mesothelioma claims were exempt from the changes in the law, until a review into the consequences of the laws could be carried out. However, this didn't stop Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor, from announcing that the exemption would be lifted, even though no such review seemed to have been carried out, after insurance industry lobbying.

This resulted in legal action from mesothelioma campaigners, who took it to the High Court. In his judgement, Mr Justice Williams said that the question was whether the Lord Chancellor had conducted a 'proper review' of what the impact on cancer sufferers would be of changing the law.

The Judgment

The answer was that he failed to carry out a review, stating that: "It is now for the lord chancellor to carry out a proper review of the likely effects of the LASPO reforms in whatever manner he concludes will permit him reasonably to achieve the required purpose."

The Association of British Insurers, who backed the Lord Chancellor argue that the cost of claims relating to mesothelioma are disproportionately high, and are in need of change. The counter argument to this is that Mesothelioma is a fatal disease, which can appear and develop very rapidly, devastating families, and in many circumstances the person making the claim passes away before seeing the compensation for their illness. However, this does demonstrate the importance of ensuring that the compensation inherited by their family isn't eaten away by the cost of making a claim.

Tony Whitston, chair of the UK wide Forum of Asbestos Support Groups, called on the government to: 'see this judgment as an opportunity to take a new approach based on justice for victims and not the profits of big financial institutions’.

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