Previous Article Next Article Asbestos compensationOn 1 Jul 2002 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Earlier reports that the floodgates for litigation would open following theLaw Lords’ ruling on victims of mesothelioma may well prove to have beenexaggerated, by Nic Paton Historic, landmark, groundbreaking, the most significant decision in thehistory of industrial disease compensation, was how May’s ruling by the Houseof Lords in the cases of three people suffering from asbestos-related diseaseswas described by the media and commentators. The judgment, it was claimed, would open the litigation floodgates forlitigation for thousands of people with such illnesses contracted through theirworkplace, and cost insurers billions of pounds in damages. Now the dust has settled somewhat, the reality, it appears, is a little moreprosaic. The ruling by the five Law Lords – the highest court in the land –headed by Lord Bingham, overturned an earlier Court of Appeal judgment thatargued that compensation could not be paid to workers exposed to asbestos dustby more than one employer. The Fairchild case The Lords were primarily considering a case known as the Fairchild case. Itwas a claim backed by the construction union Ucatt brought on behalf of JudithFairchild, whose husband Arthur died of mesothelioma in 1996. Arthur Fairchild had been exposed to asbestos while working for Leeds CityCouncil in the early 1960s and later for the games maker Waddingtons. The claim for compensation had been rejected by the High Court andsubsequently by the Court of Appeal. Had she lost in the Lords, Fairchild wouldhave faced a legal bill of around £1m. Instead, she will now receiveapproximately £191,000 in compensation. Two other claims were also considered. The first was that of Doreen Fox,widow of Thomas Fox, who worked for a firm called Spousal (Midland) and forseveral employers at Liverpool docks. The third claimant was Edwin Matthews, 54, from Rochester in Kent, who isdying from mesothelioma. Matthews had been awarded compensation of £155,000 by the High Court, butthis was overturned by the Court of Appeal ruling. A former factory worker, hehad brought his claim against two employers, Associated Portland Cement andBritish Uralite. Ucatt, perhaps inevitably, hailed the decision as a momentous victory, andone that could cost British businesses between £6bn and £8bn. Implications for employers Union leader George Brumwell said: “This judgment will help tens ofthousands of sufferers from the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma and willteach the insurance industry a lesson it will never forget.” But personal injury lawyers were more circumspect about the importance ofthe Lords’ decision and its implications. Adrian Budgen, head of the asbestos diseases unit at solicitors Irwin Mitchell,a company that handles many asbestos-related cases, was frank about itsramifications. “This is not going to open the floodgates. The cost is morelikely to be closer to £200m to £300m. It is very easy to talk about hugenumbers and big figures, but we are not talking about billions of pounds – thatis scaremongering. “Really, what the Law Lords have done is go back to how the law wasbefore 1 February last year,” he explained. The earlier Court of Appeal ruling took the view that if you had a casewhere there was more than one wrongdoer, some of which may have since gone outof business, then it was wrong that the surviving firms should have to pay forthe negligence of others. What Lord Bingham and his colleagues decided was that, if a person sufferingfrom mesothelioma had been exposed in several places then rather than saying itwas not possible to prove which of those companies contributed, all defendantsshould contribute because they all exposed the claimant. “All defendants who are sued then pay, so the claimant will receive 100per cent of damages,” said Budgen. Full judgment awaited The rarity of this case was not so much in the ruling itself, but the factthe Lords revealed their decision before publishing their full written ruling. Until that full judgment is available, the ramifications for OHprofessionals will not be completely clear. But it is likely the mainimplication will be in how far this judgment applies to other similarindustrial diseases. Because of the stringent laws now covering asbestos, cases involvingmesothelioma are by and large historical, going back decades. This is less soin cases of, say, asthma or vibration white finger, both of which couldfeasibly come under the remit of the ruling. Companies might also have to takean even closer look at the due diligence procedures surrounding the transfer ofbusiness, potential risks and liabilities and so forth. “It would seem that the Fairchild principle would apply to any cancercase or asthma case. It is any injury that would be cumulative,” assertedBudgen.
Roberto Mancini has blasted goalkeeper Joe Hart after the Manchester City goalkeeper criticised his team-mates in the aftermath of their 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid on Tuesday evening.The City No. 1, who was visibly angered by the late defeat, claimed it was “not on” after his side’s defeat to the Spanish champions.And despite Mancini broadly agreeing that the whole team were to blame rather than just his goalkeeper, the Italian said he was the only person who should be openly criticising his team.“Joe Hart should stay in goal and make saves,” a frustrated Mancini told reporters after the game.“If anyone should criticise the team it should be me, not Joe Hart. I am the judge, not Joe Hart.”City looked set for a memorable win at the Santiago Bernabeu after an Aleksandar Kolarov free kick five minutes from time edged them ahead. However, strikes from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo – which seemed to deceive Hart – meant the English side returned home pointless from their first Champions League game of the season.Despite being downhearted after the clash, Mancini insisted that, although it was not the start his side wanted to this season’s European campaign, there was no need to get carried away.“We should be disappointed that we have lost this point but we can improve,” he said.“Other teams will lose here. We have five games and it is important that we beat Dortmund in the next game. It will be difficult because Dortmund are a top team.”