The UK's largest law firm acting for asbestos victims has called for commonsense and reality from the House of Lords following today's devastating ruling by three Court of Appeal judges that will rob thousands of dying men and widows of compensation.
As a result of this ruling there will be no compensation for victims of the terminal asbestos cancer, mesothelioma if, as is usually the case in asbestos claims, the individual was exposed to the deadly dust by more than one employer. The decision by the Court of Appeal to uphold a High Court judgment is a devastating blow to the widows and families of men who have died or are dying.
It is estimated that by 2010, 10,000 people a year will be dying of mesothelioma, twice the number who are killed annually on the roads. Dozens of mesothelioma compensation claims have been waiting for the Court of Appeal's decision.
Mesothelioma - difficult to imagine a more drawn out or painful way in which to die
The original judge who heard the lead case of Fairchild commented that in his view it was "difficult to imagine a more drawn out or painful way in which to die". And yet, because just one fibre can kill and Arthur Fairchild had worked with three companies who had exposed him to asbestos, his widow has got nothing.
Today's ruling means that companies can admit that they have negligently exposed workers - who then develop mesothelioma - to asbestos, yet they can now walk away without having to pay a penny in compensation.
Insurance companies stand to save tens of millions of pounds whilst victims are potentially left penniless.
Thompsons Solicitors condemn the ruling
Ian McFall, head of the national asbestos team at Thompsons Solicitors, the UK's largest personal injury law firm, condemned the ruling.
"The Lords must unravel this mess so that mesothelioma victims and their families can get the compensation they deserve. Is it right that employers admit blame, kill people as a result and the victim and their family gets nothing? We look to the highest court in the land to restore some sense of justice to the victims."
Sally Henson's husband Peter died this year aged 52 of mesothelioma. He had worked in at least two workplaces where he was exposed to asbestos. Mrs Henson pledged to fight "tooth and nail" against the ruling.
"This is legal fairyland. I have lost Peter and God knows if I could have him back I would but since I can't I won't allow judges to rob me or our children aged 16, 18 and 22 of compensation for the loss of their father.
"I don't want to hear about legal technicalities. Where is the compassion for the human victims of the asbestos tragedy? If this is what you get from judges then people's lives should no more be in their hands than in those of the companies who used asbestos. Clearly neither of them care. Companies are going to get away scot free and the judges are allowing it."
Asbestos disease diagnosis? Talk to us for advice and support on how to secure compensation.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we can support you with advice on how to make a claim.
The process will be explained in plain English and with no obligation – our priority is to provide you with the best, expert advice on whether you have a valid case for compensation, and to signpost you to further sources of support.
There are strict time limits applied to making a claim – usually three years from the date of diagnosis. It doesn’t matter if the exposure to asbestos took place – as it often does – decades ago, the three year time limit applies to the date of knowledge of diagnosis or date of death.
For further information, visit our How to Make A Compensation Claim page.