A law firm that successfully brought an asbestosis case decades out of time has claimed that the big players in the market would not have taken it on.
It comes as another practice announced a “ground-breaking” settlement agreement with insurers which covers both existing treatment for mesothelioma and “future unidentified treatments”.
Royds Withy King secured a settlement worth £57,000 on behalf of an unidentified man, now deceased, even though the case was 20 or 30 years out of time.
The man, referred to as Mr R, died in February 2017. A post mortem revealed that there was “clear evidence of asbestosis and a very high level of asbestos fibres” in his lungs.
Mr R began work at Hams Hall Power Station in Coleshill, Warwickshire, as an apprentice, aged 14, in 1941 and stayed there for the vast majority of his working life. Among his tasks was removing thick asbestos lagging from pipework to carry out repairs.
By 2016, he was too unwell to have a biopsy, but he was told by doctors that they suspected he had mesothelioma. At this point he instructed Royds Withy King.
A post mortem after he died in February 2017 said Mr R was not suffering from any asbestos-related condition at all.
A second opinion, however, confirmed that while there was no evidence of mesothelioma in the tissue samples provided (but that the tissue samples were not necessarily from the right part of the lungs for mesothelioma to be excluded), there was clear evidence of asbestosis and a very high level of asbestos fibres in Mr R’s lungs.
The claim therefore proceeded as an asbestosis/pleural thickening claim.
The settlement was reduced from the overall likely value of £98,000 to take into account the risk that the claimant might fail to persuade the court to exercise its discretion to allow the claim to proceed out of time, and also to reflect the unpursued periods of exposure.
Partner Helen Childs said: “Some of the huge asbestos law firms have very strict protocols about what they can and can’t accept and it’s unlikely that any of these firms would have been able to help Mr R when he was diagnosed with suspected mesothelioma more than 30 years after he was first diagnosed with asbestosis, and more than 40 years since he was diagnosed with asbestos-related changes in his lungs.”
She explained that, under the Limitation Act, the court should allow claims to proceed out of time if the defendants could not establish that they were any more prejudiced than they would have been in investigating the claim if it had been brought in time.
“We were quite sure that this was the situation here as Mr R’s employers had faced scores if not hundreds of similar claims and exposure to asbestos was clearly documented in his own personnel file.”
The settlement that included future unidentified treatments was negotiated by Irwin Mitchell.
Its client, 63-year-old James Casey, most likely developed mesothelioma after working for North Eastern Gas Board between 1969 and 1980.
Mr Casey suffered from peritoneal mesothelioma, a cancer affecting the lining of the abdomen. He recalled working at offices, factories and mills and being asked to strip asbestos lagging from pipework and boilers, with work generating a lot of dust which he also had to sweep and clear up.
Partner Ian Toft said: “This settlement is a hugely important step forward for victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses.
“We had previously secured a deferred periodical payments order for another client which ensured his cancer treatment costs would be covered regardless of their amount or the length of support he needed.
“However, this settlement for James builds on this further, as it includes the extra element of covering future unidentified treatments even if they are not currently on the medical radar at present.
“The ultimate benefit of such an agreement is simply peace of mind, as it ensures that our client does not face uncertainty regarding his access to treatment.
“Furthermore, with new treatments constantly in development but costs also on the rise, it ensures that our client will be able to benefit from whatever is required.”