Mesothelioma Battle Raised In Parliament – see also Daily Mirror Campaign and letter to The Times


http://www.epolitix.com/latestnews/article-detail/newsarticle/government-scapegoating-terminally-ill-asbestos-victims/

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/letters/article3338610.ece

Legal aid Bill blow to asbestos victims: Letter to The Times, March 3rd 2012.

Asbestos victims should not, and financially cannot, subsidise other claimants’ access to justice

Sir, There have rightly been many reports on the damaging effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Prosecution of Offenders Bill on legal aid. But nothing has been reported on the grossly unjust effect of Part 2 of the Bill on victims of asbestos dying from the cancer mesothelioma.
Provisions in the Bill require terminally ill asbestos victims who succeed in a claim for compensation against negligent, guilty employers to pay 25 per cent of their damages for pain and suffering in legal costs associated with the conditional fee agreement system (CFA). The Government’s argument that this will deter frivolous and fraudulent claims is, frankly, risible as far as dying asbestos victims are concerned. The Government has identified increasing road traffic accident claims and alleged whiplash claims as the real problem (in total, whiplash claims add up to a staggering £2 billion annually), especially as road traffic claims amount to more than 70 per cent of all personal injury claims.
The Government’s additional argument that making mesothelioma sufferers pay legal costs will drive costs down as they shop around for the best “deal” is untenable as many sufferers are so defeated by their illness they never make a claim as things stand now.
Legal aid provided public money for test cases and difficult and meritorious cases to be run, until the present CFA system required losing, guilty defendants to pay. It is now proposed that one claimant must pay for another claimant’s chance to gain access to justice. Important test cases which have determined the right of mesothelioma sufferers to claim would never have been run under the new prescription.
Asbestos victims should not, and financially cannot, subsidise other claimants’ access to justice, nor can they afford to defend test cases run by rich insurers. Eighteen peers have signed a letter calling on colleagues to support all-party amendments at the Report Stage in the Lords to protect asbestos victims from a gross injustice.

Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool
Lord Avebury
Lord Beecham
Baroness Butler-Sloss
Professor Baroness Finlay of Llandaff
Lord McFall of Alcluith

House of Lords

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A note from Lords ALTON, AVEBURY, BACH, BEECHAM, + NICHOLAS BLACKBURN, BRENNAN, BUTLER-SLOSS, ELYSTAN-MORGAN, FINLAY OF LLANDAFF, HOWARTH, McCOLL, MCFALL, MONKS, NEWTON, PATEL, WALTON OF DETCHANT, WIGLEY

At Report Stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill consideration will be given to all-party amendments which protect the legal remedies open to victims of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a terrible disease, contracted as a result of exposure to asbestos, and from diagnosis a victim’s life is drastically curtailed. Not qualifying for legal aid, they rely on Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs) to fund their cases. Currently, they do not pay legal costs out of their compensation.

We set out briefly why the Government’s arguments for making asbestos victims pay 25% of their damages for pain and suffering to pay for legal costs are deeply flawed.

The Government argue that CFAs, as currently constructed, mean that win or lose, a claimant risks nothing and this has encouraged frivolous and fraudulent claims to flourish. We argue that dying asbestos victims’ claims can never be frivolous or fraudulent.

Who then is responsible for exploiting CFAs? The Government is quite clear: road traffic accident (RTA) claims, which make up over 70% of all personal injury claims, particularly whiplash claims, are to blame (in total, whiplash claims add up to a staggering £2 billion annually). We argue that RTA problems will not be resolved by punishing asbestos victims.

Additionally, the Government argues that legal costs are too high because claimants have no investment in controlling costs. Making claimants pay costs will, apparently, mean that they will shop around for the best deal. We argue that dying asbestos victims have already ‘invested’ enough, and given their pitiable condition it is risible to suggest that they will ‘shop around’.

Currently, solicitors are paid a ‘success fee’ by the losing defendant to fund very difficult but meritorious cases. This replaces funding which was available under Legal Aid. Now, one claimant must pay for another claimant’s chance to gain access to justice. Important test cases which have determined the right of mesothelioma sufferers to claim would never have been run under the new prescription. We argue that asbestos victims should not, and financially cannot, subsidise other claimants’ access to justice, nor can they afford to defend test cases run by rich insurers.

The vast majority of all work-related respiratory diseases are work-related asbestos diseases. To date, over 30,000 people in the United Kingdom have died from mesothelioma, and over 60,000 more are yet to lose their lives due to past exposure to asbestos. We argue that they suffer enough. It is iniquitous that they should lose their modest compensation to reduce solicitors’ costs. Solicitors’ costs can be reduced directly, and access to justice preserved, but not by scapegoating asbestos victims.

We very much hope you will consider supporting these amendments.

Yours sincerely,

ALTON, AVEBURY, BACH, BEECHAM, + NICHOLAS BLACKBURN, BRENNAN, BUTLER-SLOSS, ELYSTAN-MORGAN, FINLAY OF LLANDAFF, HOWARTH, McCOLL, MCFALL, MONKS, NEWTON, PATEL, WALTON OF DETCHANT, WIGLEY

Clause 43
Page 30, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) The amendments made by this section do not apply in relation to proceedings which include a claim for damages for respiratory disease or illness (whether or not resulting in death) arising from industrial exposure to harmful substance.”
Clause 45
Page 32, line 39, at end insert—
“( ) The amendment made by this section does not apply in relation to proceedings which include a claim for damages for respiratory disease or illness (whether or not resulting in death) arising from industrial exposure to a harmful substance.”
Clause 46
Page 32, line 46, at end insert—
“( ) The repeal made by subsection (1) does not apply in relation to proceedings which include a claim for damages for respiratory disease or illness (whether or not resulting in death) arising from industrial exposure to a harmful substance