Asbestos related disease news

 

Head of Personal Injury Team at Boyes Turner, Kim Smerdon, welcomes one of her Team members' appointment to Director

Kim Smerdon, Head of the personal injury team at Boyes Turner, has praised the contribution of one of her senior solicitors, Laura Magson, to the department after her recent promotion to Director.

Laura Magson now heads up the mesothelioma and asbestos team at Boyes Turner and has been promoted to a Director in the latest round of promotions at the firm.

Kim Smerdon says:

“I am delighted that Laura’s contribution to her clients and the team have been recognised. Laura is the most experienced asbestos disease solicitor in the firm, having acted for asbestos disease claimants for over 13 years. She has a well-established reputation as an outstanding lawyer known for the persistence with which she pursues difficult cases, the outstanding care that she shows to her clients and the high proportion of lifetime settlements she achieves.”

Laura is an accredited asbestos disease specialist with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and assesses other solicitors in this field of work so that they can gain the same accreditation. She is passionate about the work that she does and is really committed to the Team.

Laura has been listed as a “next generation lawyer” in the 2017 and 2018 editions of Legal 500 which recently quoted: “Thorough, professional and compassionate” Laura Magson is also highly recommended by clients for her “long standing reputation for achieving success in difficult cases” (Legal 500 2018).

Laura’s impressive record of successful claims nationwide and abroad includes legally medically and financially complex cases including low level and environmental exposure, multi defendants and cases which lack evidence. Her compassion and commitment to easing her clients’ anxiety is demonstrated with the persistence which drives her to succeed in heavily defended and difficult cases which other lawyers are unable or reluctant to pursue. She secures lifetime settlements and provisional damages awards in asbestosis, pleural thickening and lung cancer cases where there are specified future risks.

She has both the compassion and legal expertise needed to obtain justice and compensation for bereaved families and negotiates voluntary repayments of end of life care costs for hospices which nurse her clients. She personally supports asbestos disease sufferers through the Berkshire Asbestos Support Group, a Group she helped to found in 2009. She also gives regular presentations and training to health care professionals throughout the country.

She works hard to conclude Mesothelioma cases during a claimant’s lifetime and has obtained sizeable sums within months of instruction, but also obtained Court orders for provision of future private treatment costs such as immunotherapy that may not be available on the NHS so her clients have the security of knowing any future treatments will be funded. When it is not possible to conclude the case during a client’s life-time Laura supports the families or estates through to complete the claim on the deceased’s behalf.

As well as her work with mesothelioma and other asbestos disease sufferers, Laura also runs serious personal injury claims. She was recently interviewed on BBC South and BBC Radio Berkshire calling for safety changes to accident blackspots in her local community. Her campaigning came about as a result of a case she was dealing with for a client who was severely injured after being knocked off his bike in the area.

She is an outspoken campaigner dedicated to using her knowledge to raise public awareness and make a difference, whether through her work with local asbestos groups or through joining her clients in campaigning for road safety changes.

She continues this activism away from the office when she helps raise awareness and funds for the charities and support groups that help sufferers of asbestos-related and other diseases. Her fundraising exploits having included abseiling down The Blade, a skyscraper in Reading, the height of 32 double decker buses, in aid of a children’s hospice, Naomi House and a 25km Thames Path Challenge walk for Mesothelioma UK.

What Laura's clients have said about her: 

“I just want to thank you again for all your help and support, it really is appreciated. We cannot express our gratitude enough in making something that is an awful situation quite “stress free” plus all of the respect and dignity that you showed at all times was outstanding ”

“You made a difficult situation easier to bear because of the human way you dealt with me. I especially appreciate this was going through a very emotional and traumatic time in my life”

“We knew from the first contact that we had chosen the right person to help us through this difficult time”

How long will it take to receive compensation for mesothelioma?

When mesothelioma is diagnosed it’s a heart breaking moment for patients and their families as they come to terms with the fact that their life expectancy has been cut short. Patients have to consider the impact that this will have not only on their own lives, but also that of their families after they have gone. We are often instructed shortly after someone has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and one of the questions that we are frequently asked is how long will my case take? 

How long will my case take?

The length of a mesothelioma claim will vary between each individual patient. It depends upon a number of factors, including how much evidence of asbestos exposure there is, if further witnesses need to be sought, if there is identifiable insurance for the company in question and the defendant’s approach to the case. 

If liability is admitted early on then cases can progress with significant speed. However, those which are challenged may take longer.

What money could I receive straight away?

In addition to pursuing a claim for compensation, we also look at making applications for benefits on behalf of our clients.

We will make an application for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, a weekly payment from the government and an application for a lump sum payment under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Worker’s Compensation) Act 1979/Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme 2008

The benefits applications do not require the same standard of proof as a legal compensation claim and therefore these amounts are often paid within a few weeks of the application being made and allow access to funds for mesothelioma patients to use towards travel, care and any other additional costs that they may now be incurring. 

Where we are unable to identify employers liability insurers for a former employer who exposed the mesothelioma patient to asbestos dust, we will make an application under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme 2014 to obtain compensation payments where none can be obtained through a civil claim.

What about an interim payment during a mesothelioma compensation claim?

Once liability has been admitted in a case, or judgment has been entered, then we can request that an interim payment is made. This is part payment of the compensation due to the mesothelioma patient and is a sum which will be paid immediately without having to wait until the conclusion of the litigation. Once the claim has concluded the interim payment is offset against the final compensation figure and the claimant will receive the balance due to them.

Interim payments have become especially important in mesothelioma cases, as these interim payment can be used to access alternative treatments including privately funded immunotherapy treatment and chemotherapy, which has been recommended by the patient’s oncologist as an appropriate form of treatment in their circumstance.

This has been an approach which has been favoured by the Court in recent months. In the case of Howard v The Imperial London Hotels Limited [2019] Master Thornett commented that

“Drawing upon interim payments to fund immunotherapy in the circumstances of a case such as this, where the client’s life expectancy is very limited is by far the more flexible and appropriate tool”

An interim payment is an appropriate, swift, tool to obtain early payment of compensation for a mesothelioma patient. 

Although used in the context of funding immunotherapy treatment in this article, interim payments can be used to fund a number of different things including private care, funding for higher insurance premiums for travel abroad, or funding for other alternative treatment which the patient may wish to explore. Ultimately, how the patient uses their interim payment is down to them.

Do all Mesothelioma claims result in an interim payment?

Not all mesothelioma claims will be successful in securing interim payments. Interim payments are only paid where there has been an admission of liability by the defendant, or the court has ordered that judgment is entered. This is because interim payments can only be made when it is clear that the claimant’s case will be successful and that they will receive compensation.

If the defendant denies liability then they are unlikely to agree to an interim payment. This does not prevent us from seeking a court order that an interim payment be made and once court proceedings have been issued a summary judgment hearing will take place and the defendant will be expected to show that they have a reasonable prospect of defending the case. If the Judge does not consider they have a reasonable prospect of defending the claim, then they can at this early stage enter judgment on liability and order an interim payment.

If you have any further questions about making a compensation claim after a mesothelioma diagnosis contact the specialist asbestos claims team by email at idclaims@boyesturner.com.

Coroners and Inquests: What do I need to know?

Information for bereaved family members of those with asbestos related illnesses

We act for bereaved families who have often lost a loved one due to asbestos related illness, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.

What is an inquest?

An inquest is a judicial enquiry to find the answers to a set of questions:

  • Who has died?
  • How did the death occur?
  • What was medical cause of death?
  • When did the death occur?
  • Where did the person die?

The cause of death is usually the focus of the inquest. The inquest is not intended to attribute blame or responsibility for the death of a loved one, nor does it deal with any criminal liability.

What does the Coroner do?

Coroners are independent judicial officers. They are responsible for establishing why a person has died and the circumstances in which the death took place. The Coroner’s involvement is unrelated to any claim for compensation, however, a Coroner’s verdict of “industrial disease” as the cause of death can be used to support a claim. Coroners are responsible for investigating unnatural, violent or sudden deaths of an unknown cause. These include deaths following an industrial disease such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

Should I report a death to the Coroner?

If a loved one dies from an asbestos-related illness, or there is concern that a death is in someway linked to asbestos, a request for investigation into the death will be carried out by a Coroner. The death is usually reported to the Coroner by the medical staff or GP treating the person who has died. If you suspect that the death was caused by an asbestos-related illness and you think that the death has not been reported to a Coroner, then we would recommend that you report the death to the Coroner yourself. This is particularly important if there is an ongoing claim for compensation, as the Coroner’s verdict and findings will become part of the evidence in a civil claim.

Will there be a post mortem?

A post mortem may be required to establish exactly how the deceased person died. We understand that the thought of a post mortem is unpleasant, but in many circumstances, Coroners can decide that a post mortem does not need to be carried out if a conclusive biopsy was taken during the person’s lifetime (for mesothelioma). In our experience the coroner’s officers are very sensitive and will keep you informed of the process so that the funeral or other service can be held in accordance with your wishes. The decision to hold a post mortem rests with the Coroner and the post mortem is performed by a pathologist. If a post mortem is necessary, it will usually be performed within a few days of someone passing away.  Small tissue samples are often taken during the post mortem for examination.

What happens to any samples taken during the post mortem examination?

The Coroner or Coroner’s Officer will ask you what you would like to do with the tissue samples once the investigation has been completed. We would urge anyone who has an ongoing claim for compensation or is considering one in the future to ask for the samples to be retained. It is extremely important that these tissues are not destroyed and we recommend that you ask for them to be retained as they may be needed for further analysis as they form part of the evidence required for a civil claim for compensation. If you have a civil claim in progress, we will write to the Coroner on your behalf to ensure that these tissues samples are preserved. In some cases, we instruct an independent pathologist to review the tissue samples to provide a report for the ongoing case. The defendants are also entitled to instruct their own expert and should not be deprived of the opportunity to do so by the lung samples being destroyed.

What happens after the post mortem?

Once the post mortem has been carried out, the Coroner releases the body for the funeral or cremation. All receipts for funeral expenses should be kept as they can be included in a compensation claim. After reading the pathologist’s report from the post mortem the Coroner will decide whether an inquest is required. In most cases involving asbestos, the Coroner will open and then adjourn (postpone) the inquest, providing details of the actual inquest dates once it has been set.

At this point, the Corner will also issue an interim death certificate. This certifies that the death has occurred and should enable all insurance claims to be processed. However, it cannot be used to register to death; that comes about when the final death certificate is issued after the inquest.

The interim death certificate will, however, allow the estate to be administered and if there is a will, you can apply for a Grant of Probate. If a will was not made, the next of kin may apply for a document called a Grant of Letters of Administration. Click here for advice from our wealth protection team who can help with the probate process.

Preparations for an inquest?

Once the inquest is opened by the Coroner, it could be a number of months or even years until the actual hearing takes place. Usually with asbestos-related claims, it takes place within a few months, but the length of the wait can vary by district. During the inquest hearing, the Coroner may ask witnesses to give evidence in person. The Coroner will also rely on medical reports and letters from treating physicians, GPs and other clinicians. If the deceased passed away in a hospice, records from the hospice could be read out at the inquest.

Before the inquest, the Coroner will direct whether or not a post mortem needs to be performed; obtain any medical records, letters or reports from hospitals, surgeries, care homes, hospices; obtain statements from any relevant witnesses. If the deceased gave us a lifetime statement then we will disclose the statement to the Coroner with the family’s permission.

If someone has passed away without making a statement or solicitors have not previously been instructed, the family may be asked to provide a summary of the deceased’s employment history and any likely asbestos exposure. The Coroner often reads out the statement and can ask the family questions. Please be reassured that the Coroner, Coroner’s officer and ushers are very sensitive and are used to dealing with people who have recently suffered a personal loss. We attend many inquests and are always pleased to see the sensitive way in which the staff approach the family during this very emotional time.

Will I have to read a statement out?

If you have provided a statement and you think that giving evidence at the inquest will be too difficult or distressing for you, then you should let the Coroner or Coroner’s officer know, as it may be possible to make arrangements for your statement to be read out on your behalf. We are also happy to liaise with the Coroner on your behalf. On the day of the inquest the witnesses providing evidence will be questioned by the Coroner. Either you or your representative will be able ask the witnesses questions. We often attend inquests and can provide you with any support and assistance needed, if necessary.

What conclusion will the Coroner reach?

At the end of the inquest the Coroner records what is now known as ‘the conclusion’ (previously known as a ‘verdict’). If the Coroner is satisfied that the death occurred as a result of asbestos exposure during employment, he/she may well record the conclusion as “industrial disease”. The Coroner is not able to attribute blame to any individual or company and cannot imply that there is any civil or criminal liability. The Coroner’s role is to consider the evidence heard to decide who the deceased was, where they died, when they died and what the cause of the death was. 

Aside from ‘industrial disease’, the following conclusions can also be used:

  • Accidental death – the cause of death was unnatural, but not unlawful; Misadventure – a very similar ‘verdict’ to ‘accidental death’, but the implication is that the deceased has taken a deliberate action that has then resulted in their own death;
  • Natural causes – the death was caused by the normal development of a natural illness or disease;
  • Suicide – the deceased has voluntarily and consciously acted to end their own life;
  • Neglect – a gross failure to provide the deceased with their basic needs such as food, drink, warmth and medicine. In order for the Coroner to reach this conclusion there must be a clear link between the gross failure and the death.
  • Unlawful killing – the deceased came about their death by murder, manslaughter, infanticide or through a significant driving offence;
  • Open verdict – the Coroner determines there is not enough evidence to return a conclusion. This ‘verdict’ is ideally only used as a last resort.

What is a pre-inquest review hearing?

The Coroner is allowed to hold a pre-inquest review (PIR) at any time during the course of an investigation and before an inquest. PIRs are usually held in more complex investigations where there is a need for issues to be aired prior to the inquest which cannot easily be dealt with by email. The purpose of PIR is to ensure that the inquest is managed effectively, efficiently and openly. Families and other participants are able to raise issues, particularly contentious issues on key topics so that surprises can be avoided. There is an agenda in advance of the PIR which is tailored to the individual case and includes issues to be raised by the Coroner at the PIR, such as: 

  • Identity of interested persons
  • Inquest
  • Whether a jury is required
  • Matters for further investigation
  • Provisional list of witnesses
  • Disclosure
  • Date of the next PIR hearing
  • Date of inquest
  • Length of inquest and venue for hearings.

Other agenda items may include:

  • Anonymity of witnesses
  • Special measures for witnesses (including video links and screens)
  • Public to be excluded for part of the inquest
  • Need for an interpreter

Will the media be present?

An inquest is a public hearing. The Coroner has produced a guidance note for Coroners and the media which can be seen here. Coroners encourage sensitivity and respect for privacy of the families of the deceased, but fair and accurate reporting of the proceedings is also necessary.

Notice of the final inquest hearing, including the date, time and place of the inquest is available to the public in advance and can be found on on the local authority website including the name of the Coroner and whether there will be a jury, the name and age of the deceased and the date and place of the deceased’s death The medical cause of death, circumstance of the death or the likely conclusion of the inquest is never included on any local authority website.

Where possible, any issues regarding the media (such as anonymity of the screening of witnesses or media restrictions) should be addressed in advance of the pre-inquest review.

All inquest hearings including pre-inquest review hearings must be recorded by the court and the Coroner keeps the recording.

The media may ask for access to documents referred to in any inquest proceedings. The request must come from a genuine journalist and the request must be for a properly journalistic purpose. The request must list precisely the documents sought and explain why they are required. The media is not entitled to see documents which are not referred to in court.

Is there an alternative verdict to the short form conclusions?

The Coroner has no obligation to use a short form conclusion. They can use a narrative conclusion setting out the circumstances of the death in a more detailed way based on the evidence that the Coroner has heard. If the deceased passed away due to mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis, then the Coroner may well record a conclusion along the lines of “by exposure to asbestos fibres during the course of his occupation as a carpenter/plumber/lagger” and insert the conclusion of “industrial disease” on the inquisition form.

If the deceased’s cause of death was mesothelioma, but they were not exposed to asbestos during the course of employment, rather they were exposed during self-employment or perhaps from the washing of a family member’s overalls, the Coroner may decide to use a narrative verdict to express the very specific activities that brought them into contact with asbestos.

Will a jury be needed at an inquest?

In some circumstances, a jury will be used at an inquest, for example, if the death occurred whilst the person was in police custody or if the Coroner believes a jury is needed in the interests of the public. Juries are not normally used cases involving asbestos-related diseases.

If the Coroner does not record the death as “industrial disease” will I still have a claim?

You may still be able to make a successful claim for compensation. For example, where the deceased was a smoker and passed away due to lung cancer, exposure to asbestos is known to be more likely to cause lung cancer in a smoker than in someone who didn’t smoke. the risk of smoking and asbestos in relation to lung cancer are multiplicative. Civil claims for lung cancer are not straight forward, often relying on pathological and engineering evidence to succeed, and should be handled by specialist solicitors experienced in this type of claim. If your loved one passed away due to lung cancer and has a significant history of exposure to asbestos, during employment, we would advise you to contact specialist solicitors as soon as possible.

How can Boyes Turner help a bereaved family at an inquest?

Our asbestos disease specialists are experienced in representing bereaved families at inquests and are familiar with the inquest process.

 Sometimes we are instructed by someone when they are already very ill from mesothelioma, and they pass away during the course of their case. It may be necessary for us to attend the inquest with the bereaved family, particularly if the evidence is important for the case, but on other occasions, the Coroner may be satisfied with the documents that they have (including life time witness statements and pathology reports sent to them by us) and the inquest can be done ‘on the papers’ without the need for a hearing. In other cases we are contacted by the bereaved family for the first time when they need help with the inquest and we can either represent them at the inquest or assist with the preparation. 

If you are considering a potential claim now or might be in the future, it is important that specialist lawyers are notified about any inquest both to ensure that all available evidence is given to the Coroner including statements which will support any future claim relating to asbestos exposure. Ask experts in this field with extensive industry knowledge we can often obtain help gather essential evidence at this critical stage in any claim. Please do contact us for more information about this service.

Mesothelioma - the Stories of Hope and Inspiration

We often write about the sad stories of people who pass away from mesothelioma; of women like Nellie Kershawe, a mother who died from ‘pulmonary asbestosis’ in her early thirties as long ago as 1924. It is right and fitting that we should not forget those people and their journeys.

But what about the stories of positivity and hope? What about the people living now with mesothelioma or those who spent their lives making a difference by inspiring others to keep going? As shocking and sad as it is to see children and young adults diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are countless positive news stories which we can draw upon to offer hope to those who are living with and fighting this asbestos-related cancer.

Macie Greening – teenage inspiration

Macie Greening was just 14 years old when she was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in spring 2018. ‘Macie’s Army’ was swiftly formed by her friends and family to raise money for a family holiday to Florida. Macie’s family have now booked the holiday and will be going in a few months. Spurred on by Macie’s Army’s efforts, Macie has decided to continue fundraising to help children in a similar situation. Just humbling.

Macie is taking part in a clinical trial which is not usually available to children but the results are looking promising, with scans showing that the tumour as shrinking.  Long may this continue and how amazing it is that Macie is inspired to help others whilst undergoing her treatment. To donate to Macie’s fund please click here.

Mags Portman – leading from the front-line

A consultant in sexual health and HIV with a particular interest in the prevention of HIV, this mum to two boys was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017. She died in February 2019 at the age of 44. Mourned by the HIV and mesothelioma communities alike, Mags’ courage in sharing her own experience of mesothelioma raised awareness that modern day mesothelioma can no longer be regarded as “an old man’s disease” which will die out with the lives it extinguishes. Her premature passing was a war-cry to the medical and research community to rally all available resources to fight this terrible disease.

Mags shared her belief in the importance of research and the hope that clinical trials provide. She had some success with first line chemotherapy but, when her disease progressed following the second cycle, she began privately funded immunotherapy. She drew parallels between her own healing journey and that of her patients, who have been diagnosed with HIV - an entirely preventable disease, but one that has had greater funding for research over the years than mesothelioma. Whilst, as we know from her own writings, she went through the darkest of times, Mags continued to fly the flag about the importance of research and clinical trials, blogging about the pain and discomfort, but also the laughter, meals out and trips away with her beloved family.  We send our heartfelt condolences to Martin and their children at this difficult time.

Back in 2004 when I began working with mesothelioma patients, clinical trials were not on the radar.  It’s encouraging to see that mesothelioma research has come so far in a decade. Mesothelioma UK are a fantastic source of information about current clinical trials, which are developing constantly.

For more information click here and telephone Mesothelioma UK if you are interested in participating in any clinical trials to find out whether you could be a suitable candidate.

Mavis Nye – Mesowarrior!

“Mesowarrior” Mavis Nye probably needs little introduction; she and husband, Ray, have done so much to raise awareness of mesothelioma, clinical trials and the health and safety concerns about asbestos that still affect the UK. Diagnosed almost 10 years ago, Mavis continues to support mesothelioma sufferers and their families, travelling up and down the country between treatments to give presentations, attend industry events and support group meetings. Whilst continuing to live life to the fullest, she has set up the Mavis Nye Foundation, a charity which will provide research grants to fund clinical research into treatment for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. The first application process is open from January to 31 March 2019. For more information, and to apply for this grant, please click here. We are behind you Mavis!

Liam Bradley- cracking on with life

And if it’s a male role model you’re looking for, meet Liam Bradley. Diagnosed at 30 years old, Liam commented, “The first few months were a blur, always wondering if this would be my last Christmas or my last birthday but, as time went on, I learnt to basically stick two fingers up at the cancer. After the first six months or so, I became mentally much stronger. The main reason for that is my three-year-old daughter – I’m determined that nothing is going to stop me seeing her grow up.”

Liam challenged himself to raise £100,000 for Mesothelioma UK, by cycling from Nottingham to Alicante, a mere 100 miles a day! Completely committed to the charity, he also cycled to the patient and carer day at Mesothelioma UK’s event in October in Burton upon Trent. What an achievement and an inspiration!

For every inspirational story that is featured on social media or the local news, there are many more who are carrying out their inspirational yet humbling work away from the glare of the limelight.

There is no doubt about it; mesothelioma is a disease that devastates the lives of individuals and their families, but medicine is advancing, help is at hand and, as these courageous people have proven, where there’s hope there’s life, and there is always room for hope.

If you or a loved one have suffered from an asbestos-related disease and you would like to find out more about making a claim, contact the mesothelioma and asbestos claims team by email at idclaims@boyesturner.com.

Launch of new mesothelioma support group for Cumbria and Lancashire

Receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma is undoubtedly one of the most heart-breaking things a patient can hear. Though mesothelioma is responsible for around 2,500 deaths per year, it is still for most people a relatively unknown cancer.

It is vitally important for patients to have access to support from professionals such as the expert Mesothelioma UK lung cancer nurses, advice on benefits and compensation and the support of other people in a similar situation to themselves. The support provided by asbestos disease support groups is invaluable in helping patients through what can be an incredibly difficult time.

Cumbria and Lancashire Asbestos Support Advice Group

It is wonderful to see a new advice centre for asbestos victims in Cumbria and Lancashire, CLASAG (Cumbria and Lancashire Asbestos Support Advice Group) which was launched on 21 January 2019.

Barrow-in-Furness is considered to be one of the areas in the UK where Mesothelioma deaths are higher than the national average and is therefore considered an area with significant numbers of Mesothelioma victims.

Barrow is no stranger to asbestos support. A support group was originally set up in 2006 by Bob Pointer. Bob volunteered in 2004 to take over as the Secretary of Barrow Trades Council with asbestos being his prime focus, as he considered that it was a serious local issue. He attended an asbestos seminar at the Abbey House Hotel which led him to network and later attend a union conference on the issue of asbestos. He became involved in two public meetings and launched the Barrow Asbestos Related Diseases Support Group (BARDS) in 2006 on the first ever Action Mesothelioma Day. BARDS was founded by Dr Helen Clayson and others. The support group later changed its name to CARDS (Cumbria Asbestos Related Disease Support). 

In an effort to re-organise the group and provide as much support as possible to those with Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases in the local area, the Asbestos Forum UK and Mesothelioma UK assisted Bob to re-organise the group and the Blackpool-based charity Disability First stepped in to support and run the group. The result is the newly created CLASAG, which replaces CARDS.Having provided support for asbestos victims for over a decade, Bob will now be taking a step back and retiring from his involvement with the support group. At the launch of  CLASAG, Bob gave an emotional speech. Taking a step back from the support group is a significant decision for Bob who has been heavily involved in the support of asbestos victims in Cumbria and Lancashire for over a decade. 

The launch was supported by Mesothelioma UK, the UKs leading mesothelioma charity. Lorraine Creech, a specialist Mesothelioma UK lung cancer nurse spoke about the work of Mesothelioma UK.  Speeches were also given by Graham Dring from the Asbestos Forum UK and Rachel Minshull of Cancer Care. 

Asbestos support groups are invaluable to the communities they serve. CLASAG will be run by Disability First and will hold meetings on the third Monday of every month at the Barrow and District Disability Association. The support group will provide advice about welfare benefits and compensation at meetings and also through its home visiting service.

Local asbestos disease support groups

There are a number of asbestos disease support groups across the UK. It is wonderful to see those running the support groups dedicating so much time and energy to the asbestos cause. It is thanks to people like Bob that the dangers and knowledge of asbestos is more prevalent in the minds of the general public. It is so important for those with Mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases to have a community to fall back on

Asbestos Sub-Committee Meeting, House of Commons

It was rather exciting to attend the all-party Parliamentary group on occupational safety and health, the Asbestos Sub-Committee on Wednesday 12 December 2018 in Room 11 in the House of Commons, just a few doors down from room 14 where Mrs May’s political fate hung in the balance. The atmosphere was buzzing, but the Asbestos Sub-Committee were focussed upon their important Agenda regarding asbestos issues.
 

Asbestos Victims Charter for Justice 

The Asbestos Victims Support Groups for UK updated us on the new draft Asbestos Victims Charter for Justice. It is a shocking statistic that in the UK this year more people will die of mesothelioma than will be killed on the roads. Every year the number of people affected by asbestos diseases continues to rise. The aim of the Charter is to set out a number of reforms that help achieve the aim of justice to asbestos disease sufferers and their families.
 
The Forum remind us that the UK has the highest mesothelioma incidents in the world. The main changes to the Charter since four years ago relate to fair compensation. 
 
We certainly support a new military veteran’s charter; especially that bereaved spouses can make an application for a lump sum, in the same way as under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme and that lifetime payments ought to be increased to reflect the average civil claims pay-outs (which are increasing in themselves). 
 

Fair compensation 

Fair compensation was a common theme throughout the meeting. It was of some concern that posthumous awards made under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Worker’s Compensation) Act 1979 and the 2008 Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme are not made at the same rate as in life payments. It was said that this mostly put women at a disadvantage as it is usually women (although not always) who are making claims following the death of a husband due to mesothelioma. The Scheme is a tariff and based on age. For example, someone suffering with mesothelioma that makes the application during life who is aged 75 (under the 1979 Act) will receive £14,995 whereas if the same application is made following their death under the 2008 scheme), the spouse will only receive £7,763.
 
Whilst the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme 2014 appears to be working well, there are still some real deficiencies with the system. One such problem is that whilst payments are now said to be 100% of the original award in all cases, tariff payments should still be increased in line with CPI each year at the same time as social security benefits. The Sub-Committee heard that there should be a review of the Scheme every two years, using the most recent annual figures available to ensure tariff payments accurately reflect average civil compensation awards.
 
The point was made that the average that was previously applied in civil cases is no longer up to date. Mesothelioma awards in civil claims are often typically higher in recent months to allow for the costs of private treatment (not always available on the NHS) such as immunotherapy. The tariff for the Diffused Mesothelioma Payment Scheme should therefore increase accordingly. 
 

What about other asbestos related diseases?

The Sub-Committee didn’t just focus on instances of mesothelioma. It was recognised that there is also a need for a scheme, similar to the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme, but for other asbestos related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and diffuse pleural thickening. The only recourse for patients suffering with these diseases, where there is no applicable employers’ liability insurers, is via the Pneumoconiosis Workers Compensation Act Scheme (where the amount are substantially lower than under the 2014 scheme) and if they contracted the disease through means other than employment, there is no recourse. 
 
There is also a difference with the way in which claims for mesothelioma and those for other asbestos related diseases such as lung cancer can be funded. Mesothelioma claimants have always been able to recover their success fee and after the event insurance premiums from the losing defendants in successful cases. This was the case previously for other asbestos related disease claimants, but since April 2013, claimants are no longer able to do this. If a claim is successful, then a lung cancer claimant for example may have to have their success fee and insurance premium deducted from their compensation. There was a call therefore to bring about equality in terms of asbestos related diseases and justice for all people suffering from asbestos disease and to return to the previous position of recovering success fees and insurance premiums from defendants.
 

Report on the Forum’s case against Cape

Action had been taken to stop Cape destroying vital evidence from previous cases and that all disclosure of these documents was in the public interest. The High Court ruled in favour of the Forum against Cape, but Cape appealed and the case was heard again at the Court of Appeal over the summer. The Master allowed disclosure of a number of documents but provided that if there were further documents needed, the claimants would have to come back to Court to obtain permission for those further documents. There is now an appeal to the Supreme Court which is going to be heard on 18-19 February 2019. 
 

Asbestos in schools

Always an emotive topic, we were pleased to hear that there has been some progress regarding asbestos in schools. The Department of Education is seeking assurances that asbestos in schools is being identified and managed appropriately. There is a newly appointed Chief Inspector responsible for education at the Health & Safety Executive who has instigated the undertaking of proactive inspections in 50 schools across England, Wales and Scotland. We were told that the chosen schools will not get more than a week’s notice of the inspection and the process is not intended to be a paper exercise with inspectors tasked with spending a whole day looking at the relevant building. There is still, of course, a long way to go, but we see this as a really positive development.
 
For more information about any of the above applications and wards please contact our mesothelioma and asbestos claims at idclaims@boyesturner.com .

I was exposed to asbestos by Turner & Newall - can I make a claim?

Turner & Newall were a leading manufacturer of asbestos products. They were based in Manchester but operated all over the country.  

The manufacture and use of asbestos products is now banned in the UK. Turner & Newall went into administration in 2001 but their use of asbestos has left a very sad legacy. Former workers and their families have contracted asbestos-related diseases, as have others who lived in close proximity to Turner & Newall factories. In many cases, the disease is terminal.

Turner & Newall concealed the dangers of asbestos

The danger to Turner & Newall workers was apparent as early as 1924, after the death of Nellie Kershaw, a worker at their Rochdale factory. At the inquest into her death, Dr William Edmund Cooke testified that his examination of the lungs showed extensive fibrosis in which were visible "particles of mineral matter... of various shapes, but the large majority have sharp angles”. Cooke concluded that they "originated from asbestos and were, beyond a reasonable doubt, the primary cause of the fibrosis of the lungs and therefore of death".

Despite this, the company denied liability and refused to pay any compensation to her family. Although Turner & Newall were aware of the dangers, they continued to manufacture and use asbestos products into the 1990s.  

Over the years, the lengths the company went to in order to conceal the dangers of asbestos are shocking. In 1955, an academic named Richard Doll completed an epidemiological study in Rochdale, home of the factory where Nellie Kershaw worked. This established a link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer. After trying to prevent him from publishing the findings, Turner & Newall then persuaded its own scientist, Dr John Knox, to draft a paper discrediting Doll’s work.  

They were also assisted by Cyril Smith, the Rochdale MP. In 1981, he wrote to Sydney Marks, head of personnel at Turner & Newall, informing him that the House of Commons were to debate European regulations on asbestos and asking him what he would like him to say in the debate. The draft sent to him by Turner & Newall is almost identical to the speech delivered by Smith, which argued that there should be less regulation and that the public were not at risk.  

The company went into administration in 2001. Does this mean that former Turner & Newall workers and other people affected by Turner & Newall’s practises are unable to claim compensation if they are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease?

The Turner & Newall scheme

A trust fund has been set up to process and pay all valid asbestos disease claims for which Turner & Newall companies have legal responsibility.  This means that, if you have an asbestos-related disease as a result of being exposed to asbestos by a Turner & Newall company, you may be eligible to claim compensation through the Turner & Newall scheme.

The process is different from asbestos disease claims against other companies, however, Boyes Turner’s specialist asbestos disease lawyers have extensive experience of dealing with such claims and can guide you through the application process.  We have made claims on behalf of people who worked for various Turner & Newall companies, including:

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, we may be able to help. Contact us on 0800 884 0718 or email claimsadvice@boyesturner.com for a free initial discussion.

Managing Asbestos in the Workplace

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to conduct their work in such a way that their employees will not be exposed to health and safety risks. They must also provide information about their workplace which might affect their health and safety. A key element of this duty is to ensure that any asbestos-containing materials in the workplace are managed effectively so that they do not put the safety of employees at risk. 

Why do employers need to manage asbestos?

Asbestos use in the construction and refurbishment of buildings is now illegal in the UK. However, it was extensively used in the 20th century and, as a result, any buildings built before 2000 may still contain asbestos. 

If asbestos is disturbed or damaged, releasing fibres into the air, these fibres may be inhaled, leading to asbestos-related diseases, including:

Workers who carry out building maintenance and repair are particularly at risk. 

Past exposure to asbestos currently kills around 4500 people a year, so it is crucial that employers protect their employees from the risk of these life-threatening diseases by ensuring that any asbestos in the workplace is managed properly.

What do employers need to do?

The duty to manage asbestos is detailed in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Employers need to manage the risks by:

  • Finding out if there is asbestos in the premises and, if so, its location and condition
  • Maintaining an up-to-date record of the location and condition of any asbestos-containing materials on the premises
  • Assessing the risk from the material
  • Preparing a plan to manage the risk from the material
  • Taking steps needed to put the plan into action
  • Reviewing and monitoring the plan and the arrangements made to put it in place
  • Setting up a system for reporting on the location and the material to anyone who might work on it or disturb it

What should happen if there is asbestos in the building that represents a risk to employees?

Depending on its condition, some damaged asbestos can be dealt with by repairing it and either sealing it or enclosing it to prevent further damage. Once it has been dealt with, the area must be marked, and it must be included in the employer’s record of asbestos locations. 

If the asbestos cannot easily be repaired and protected, it will need to be removed. The work must be carried out by someone trained and competent to carry out the task, usually an HSE licensed contractor. 

What should happen if the asbestos in the building does not represent a risk?

If any asbestos-containing materials in the building are in good condition and the employer decides that it is safe to leave it in place, they must keep a record of the location and the condition it is in and ensure that this is kept up to date.

They must also ensure that everyone who needs to know about the asbestos is told about its presence. It is good practice to label the asbestos-containing materials with an asbestos warning sign.

Thereafter, it is important to continue to manage the risks from asbestos left in the building. Employers must regularly reinspect any asbestos-containing materials on the premises and keep their records up to date. They must also regularly check that the arrangements they have put in place to control the risks are working effectively.

Detailed information can be found on the HSE website: http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/duty.htm

Boyes Turner’s asbestos-related disease team are specialists in recovering compensation for individuals and bereaved families affected by mesothelioma, lung cancer and other diseases caused by exposure to asbestos.

If you or a loved one have been affected by an asbestos-related disease and you would like to find out more about making a claim, contact us by email at idclaims@boyesturner.com

What is asbestos related lung cancer?

We often get asked about asbestos-related lung cancer, what it is, can they claim even though they smoked? Because of this, we have tried to answer some of our most commonly asked questions! 

Q. What is asbestos-related lung cancer?

Apart from mesothelioma, there is no particular type of lung cancer which is exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos dust. Both non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer can be caused by exposure to asbestos dust.

Q. Can I succeed with a claim for asbestos-related lung cancer even though I smoked?

Even if you were a smoker, it is possible that asbestos exposure has contributed to your lung cancer. This is because of the risk of developing lung cancer increases in direct proportion to the level of your exposure to asbestos dust.

There is no clinical means of distinguishing between lung cancer caused by asbestos and lung cancer caused by smoking. However, there is clear evidence that if you have smoked and been exposed to asbestos dust your risk of lung cancer is significantly increased.

Q. Do I need to have asbestosis to have asbestos-related lung cancer?

The presence of other asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, asbestos-related pleural plaques or asbestos-related diffuse pleural thickening can indicate that the lung cancer has been caused by exposure to asbestos dust.

Historically, it was presumed that lung cancer could not be caused by asbestos exposure unless asbestosis was also present. However, research has confirmed that asbestos-related lung cancer can occur without the presence of asbestosis.

Q. Is there a minimum level of exposure to asbestos dust before asbestos-related lung cancer can be diagnosed?

Whether or not your lung cancer can be attributed to asbestos exposure will also depend upon the level of your exposure to asbestos dust. In order to pursue a claim for compensation for asbestos-related lung cancer you must be able to show very heavy exposure to asbestos dust for a short period of time, or moderate exposure to asbestos dust for a long period of time.

Q. How much compensation will I receive for asbestos-related lung cancer?

The amount of compensation awarded for asbestos-related lung cancer will depend upon the individual circumstances of the case. However, general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity are generally awarded at between £61,410 and £85,340 (JC Guidelines July 2018). On top of this, a claim can also be made for care and assistance, travel, loss of income and any other losses that have been incurred as a result of the lung cancer.

You should bear in mind that if you have also been a smoker, there may be a deduction to your compensation to reflect the fact that your smoking has also contributed to the lung cancer.

If you would like to talk to one of our specialist solicitors about the possibility of bringing a claim, with no obligations to take matters further then email the team at idclaims@boyesturner.com.

Mesothelioma asbestos and the Johnson & Johnson baby powder cases

Over the past couple of months Johnson & Johnson, a company synonymous with baby skin care products, with tag lines such as “clinically proven to be as mild as water”, have come under significant scrutiny following a $117m award of compensation for mesothelioma, after it was revealed through trial documentation that Johnson’s talc baby powder contained asbestos.

The decision to award damages in this case was made by a jury in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The claim was made against the company Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc, together with Imerys Talc America Inc. According to reports, following consideration of confidential documentation from Johnsons’ company documents, the jury awarded the claimant $37m in compensation for his asbestos cancer mesothelioma. They also awarded $80m in punitive damages.  Punitive damages are awarded where compensation alone is seen to be inadequate and as a deterrent for any similar future practice by the company. 

The case in question was Steven and Kendra Lanzo v Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc and Imerys Talc America Inc.  The claimants were represented by American mesothelioma law firm, Kazan Law, who advocate for the rights of asbestos victims. 

During the trial, confidential company documents were disclosed which revealed that the companies were aware that Johnson’s talc baby powder contained asbestos. Consequently, the jury found that Johnson & Johnson should stop selling Johnson’s talc baby powder and should replace the talc with cornstarch. 

The documents showed that Johnson & Johnson were aware since the 1960s that the talc used in its baby powder contained asbestos and that it could cause cancer. 

The talcum powder itself is not considered to be the cause of the mesothelioma, but the fact that it is contaminated with amphibole asbestos tremolite. Talcum powder and tremolite are substances created by the same geologic process, therefore, the materials are frequently found in the same areas.

The Johnson’s Baby UK website reassures its consumers that their baby powder does not contain asbestos. The website states, “Johnson’s® baby powder does not contain asbestos, a substance classified as cancer causing. The talc used in all our global production is carefully selected and processed to be asbestos free, which is confirmed by regular testing to confirm purity. Like all our products, Johnson’s baby powder contains only ingredients that have been fully evaluated by scientific and medical experts to ensure they are safe to use”. 

The link between mesothelioma and talcum powder remains controversial and Johnson & Johnson are expected to appeal the decision. The company has previously come under scrutiny for links between ovarian cancer and talcum powder, although large studies such as the Nurses’ Health Study (2010) and the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Cohort (2014) have found no causal link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. However, these studies did not stop a jury in Missouri yesterday awarding $4.7 bn in damages to 22 women who alleged they had developed ovarian cancer after using their baby powder. Johnson & Johnson is set to appeal the decision.

Talcum powder is a controversial product and many midwives do not recommend the use of talcum powder, owing to the risk that it may be contributing to the growing number of children diagnosed with asthma. 

We will watch out for further developments in the asbestos talcum powder cases and await with interest the outcome of any appeal and any further documentation which Johnson & Johnson may produce.

Whether or not talcum powder poses an asbestos risk and a risk of mesothelioma appears from, the evidence, to be uncertain. What is clear is that talc can be contaminated with tremolite as a consequence of the natural process of its creation but the company maintains its position that the talc used in these products is asbestos free. 

What is certain is that the prolific use of asbestos in the past means that this is unlikely to be the last consumer product that we encounter which used to contain asbestos.

If you or a family member are suffering from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease, email us at IDclaims@boyesturner.com for a free initial conversation. 

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