Families pay a huge emotional toll fighting asbestos

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Phyllis Craig says companies defending asbestos-related claims are putting families through untold distress 

8th August 2018 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

In a recent case involving domestic exposure to asbestos, the Court of Session awarded damages in respect of the late Adrienne Sweeney because of her premature death from mesothelioma. What will this mean for others? For one family the five dependants that have been diagnosed with pleural plagues, because of their father’s exposure to asbestos, will mean that each of them is now in a stronger position of having compensation awarded because of their diagnosis.

This type of decision is always portrayed as being positive, but if you scratch the surface you will find that those diagnosed with an asbestos condition have a lot to overcome. For each of the five dependants mentioned above there will definitely be a sense of justice at the decision in the late Mrs Sweeney’s case, but there will be continual anxiety about what their future will entail. They watched their father die a horrendous death from mesothelioma and know only too well there is an increased risk that this could happen to them in the future.

The reality is that in all asbestos cases there is no automatic right to receive compensation; it is not enough to be diagnosed with an asbestos condition. You would have to demonstrate where and how you were exposed to the asbestos, and that there had been a breach of the legislation at that time. In all asbestos cases, the solicitors who represent the Insurance Industry will continue to try and avoid their responsibility by defending each case vigourously in order not to make a payment.

Let us take a look at the late Mrs Sweeney’s case. Having received a terminal diagnosis you might think that the defendants would try to lesson the burden on Mrs Sweeney by settling her claim for compensation in life. 

Truth is...there is no automatic right to receive compensation

The truth is that they did not accept the proposed value of the case. Following Mrs Sweeney’s premature death the defendants proceeded to court and this time the late Mrs Sweeney’s daughter had to attend court to re live the painful situation by giving evidence. 

CAA believes the public should be aware of such unacceptable behaviour by those defending asbestos cases. Indeed such tactics are used by the defendants every day, and it wasn’t too long ago that the defendants argued in terminal cases of mesothelioma, that each person diagnosed with mesothelioma should have to identify the single trigger fibre that caused their mesothelioma; this argument was dismissed, but was taken all the way to the house of lords in the case of Fairchild, Mathews & Fox.

It may seem that CAA are being somewhat negative, but the charity are aware of the antics by those defending these cases.

We are extremely proud of the late Mrs Sweeney and her daughter for their courage and determination in pursuing this case for the sake of others, as it will make a difference, but as you can see from the aforementioned, there is much that has to be endured before compensation will be awarded.

Phyllis Craig MBE is chair of Clydeside Action on Asbestos 

9th August 2018 by David Trigg

Wonderful article, well written and most welcome. It is sad that the insurance industry behaves in this way, challenging asbestos disease cases where ever they think that they can make a difference to the injured parties claim. It is not just asbestos claims, they make a stance on all claims, think about domestic claims, you have paid your premium so you expect compensation when making a claim, but no, you have to make a payment for the first xxx pounds.All this is designed to make the insurers more profitable, therefore giving the senior management more bonuses, plus, don't forget, more in donations to the Conservative Party.Back to asbestos claims, yes, the insurers tried to have the direction of blame laid out around 'whose premises the asbestos was in when the claimant inhaled it' they have also tried the position of whose premises was the highest, and lowest, exposure, if the claimant worked at more than one employer in their working life. They have also tried to make the case for the claim to be exercised from the date of diagnosis, not any possible exposure, thus eliminating most claims, as retired claimants could not claim against their employer if no longer employed.The position with pleural plaques is that in England and Wales, people diagnosed with it cannot claim, unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the governments there decided that it was such an illness that it did indeed warrant sufficient degree of discomfort and worry for a claim to be made, the Westminster government had previously supported a Law Lords decision that P P was not a serious enough illness to worry about. This decision has saved the insurance industry around £4billion.