A family from Florence in Alabama has resolved its claim for mesothelioma cancer due to secondary exposure and been awarded $3.5 million compensation.
For 22 years, Barbara Bobo washed work clothes brought home by her husband, James, who was employed at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant and who regularly did clean-up work after asbestos insulation was installed at the plant.
James died of lung cancer due to exposure to asbestos fibers in 1997. In 2011, Barbara was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer and had surgery to remove the lining of her lung. She also underwent chemotherapy treatment until her death in 2013.
As studies have shown that many workers unknowingly carried home asbestos fibers on their clothes, Barbara´s children made a claim for mesothelioma cancer due to secondary exposure against the owners of the Brown Ferry Nuclear Plant – the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The Tennessee Valley Authority denied its liability for Barbara´s death, but at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Judge Lynwood Smith found in favor of the family and awarded Barbara´s children $3,537,000 compensation in settlement of the claim for mesothelioma cancer due to secondary exposure.
In his summing up, Judge Smith ruled that the Browns ferry Plant had violated worker safety regulations established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). He said that “relatively simple, low-cost methods which if implemented … may have prevented Barbara Bobo’s contraction of mesothelioma.”
Secondary exposure to asbestos occurs when the person is not exposed to asbestos directly through his or her own work, but when he or she is exposed to asbestos dust and fibers from another source – such as in the case of Barbara Bobo. As with primary exposure to asbestos, symptoms of secondary exposure to asbestos can take decades to manifest – making it difficult to pinpoint where initial asbestos exposure occurred and establish liability in a claim for mesothelioma cancer due to secondary exposure.
Changes to personal injury claims procedures introduced on 1st August 2013 will speed up compensation settlements in claims with a value of up to £25,000.
The second of two changes to the Civil Procedure Rules took effect on 1st August 2013, and whereas the changes to the personal injury claims procedures in April of this year took away some of the benefits of making “Contingency Fee” compensation claims, the most recent changes should allow claimants to receive their compensation settlements within a shorter time frame.
The new procedures will see the length of time negligent parties and their insurance companies have to acknowledge “Letters of Claim” reduced to one day from twenty-one days, and the number of days available for them to conduct their own investigations into a claim reduced from ninety days to thirty days (forty days in the event of a compensation claim for an accident at work).
The aim of the new procedures is to reduce the costs of pursuing a claim for personal injury compensation when the value of the claim is less than £25,000 and when liability is not disputed. Any negligent party or insurance company who fails to adhere to these guidelines will not be able to take advantage of the Ministry of Justice Claims Portal and will face higher costs in defending the claim.
There are numerous exceptions to the new Civil Procedure Rules and there will be no change to the personal injury claims procedures in the following events:-
If an injury has been sustained due to the negligence of a private individual – for example if a homeowner has damaged the pavement outside their house over which you have tripped and fallen
If the injury which is being claimed for is an acquired disease either at work (for example COPD due to your working environment) or a place of public access (for example food poisoning in a restaurant)
If an injury has been sustained in an accident or scenario involving more than one party – for example a car accident in which more than one person was to blame
If an injury was sustained in an accident for which you were partly to blame or if your injury was exacerbated due to your own lack of care (also known as “Contributory Negligence”).
If a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition was due to medical negligence – either at a hospital or in private practice such as at the dentist
If you have developed mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos, or if you are claiming on behalf of an individual who has died due to mesothelioma cancer
If you have sustained an injury due to the negligence of a party who is uninsured, insolvent or untraceable – such as if you are injured in a hit and run accident.
The changes apply to injuries which have been sustained or diagnosed in England or Wales from 1st August onwards, and do not affect the length of time you have after an injury has been discovered in which to claim personal injury compensation – currently three years in the UK.
Should you require further information about how the changes to the personal injury claims procedures may affect you in your particular circumstances, you are advised to speak with a personal injury lawyer at the earliest opportunity.
Victim support groups have criticised the government´s proposals to provide mesothelioma compensation settlements to former employees who contracted an asbestos-related disease in the workplace and who are unable to trace their former employer to claim compensation.
Details of the Mesothelioma Bill were announced last week in the Queen´s Speech and were widely welcomed by government ministers who said that the plans address the scenario in which former employees, who were negligently exposed to asbestos in the workplace, are unable to trace an employer or insurer against whom to claim compensation.
The proposed legislation would establish a £300 million fund – paid for by a levy on insurance companies currently providing employer´s liability insurance – that would provide compensation for mesothelioma sufferers who would otherwise not receive anything. Mesothelioma compensation settlements would be paid out to those who qualified for the scheme at a rate of 70 percent of average industry settlements.
However, while government ministers and the Association of British Insurers welcomed the bill, campaigners were saying that it did not go far enough and highlighted the proposals major failings –
The mesothelioma compensation settlements will only be paid to those diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer from 25th July 2012
The 70 percent ceiling on ‘average’ settlements prevents each claim for mesothelioma compensation from being settled on its own merits
Those suffering from other asbestos-related illnesses – such as asbestosis and pleural thickening will be excluded from the proposed government legislation
Chairman of the Asbestos Victims Support Group – Tony Whitston – said: “What appears to be a great deal brokered by government, and costing the insurance industry a small fortune, is in reality something entirely different. This scheme is not what we expected. It was presented as a fait accompli to asbestos victims and saves the insurance industry a small fortune at huge cost to asbestos victims.”
The British Lung Foundation highlighted that “a shamefully small amount” was spent on research into mesothelioma cancer – only £400,000 in 2011, compared with £11.5 million spent on lung cancer – and said it would also seek to amend the proposed legislation for mesothelioma compensation settlements to ensure a “long-term, sustainable research fund” is set up to find a cure for mesothelioma.
A former employee of bathroom appliance manufacturer Armitage Shanks has been awarded £160,000 in compensation for working with asbestos in a factory.
76-year-old Eli Richards for Great Wyrley, near Walsall, worked for the Armitage Shanks factory in Bushbury, Wolverhampton as a tool maker from 1979 until his retirement. Eli had been a very fit man throughout his younger years – playing table tennis, five-a-side football into his sixties and swimming regularly until recently.
Part of his responsibilities at Armitage Shanks included cutting boards of asbestos but, throughout his seventeen year employment with the company, Eli was never given any advice about the harmful effects of asbestos or provided with any personal protective equipment to prevent him from breathing in the harmful fibres.
Eli, who had never smoked in his life, was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma – a fatal lung cancer which is caused by exposure to asbestos – and, after seeking legal advice, made a claim for compensation for working with asbestos in a factory against his former employers.
After being presented with the case, Armitage Shanks admitted their liability for Eli´s condition and negotiated a settlement of compensation for working with asbestos in a factory amounting to £160,000.
An inquest into the death of a former BT Building Contract Manager has heard that the deceased made a BT engineer mesothelioma claim for compensation shortly before he died.
At the inquest, Assistant Deputy Coroner Dr Peter Harrowing was told that Derek Butler (74) from Weston in Somerset – a former BT draughtsman and Building Contract Manager – had been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer earlier this year, an industrial disease often caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibres.
Dr Harrowing heard from Dr Justin Pepperell – Derek´s consultant physician – who confirmed that Derek had died from malignant mesothelioma, and was also read a statement composed by Derek shortly before his death, in which Derek explained the reasons why he believed he had contracted the deadly cancer.
The statement revealed that Derek had worked for British Telecommunications from 1967 as a draughtsman and, from 1980 until his retirement in 1996, as a Building Contract Manger. Although many of Derek´s responsibilities revolved around planning the remodelling of buildings which were converting from mechanical telephone systems to electric telephone networks, he was often called upon to be present at building sites to supervise the work.
It was while at these building sites that Derek was exposed to asbestos coated telephone wires which – as the remodelling was in progress – released a significant amount of asbestos fibres and dust into the atmosphere. According to Derek´s statement the protection supplied by BT against exposure to asbestos consisted of several plastic sheets which failed to protect people working at the site.
Derek had commenced a BT engineer mesothelioma claim for compensation shortly before his death and speaking at the conclusion of the inquest Dr Peter Harrowing said: “Mr Butler did not work directly with asbestos but when working with BT and working with buildings which were remodelled it was likely he was exposed to asbestos during that work. I accept the medical cause of death as being one due to industrial disease.”
The Minister for Welfare – Lord Freud – has revealed details of a diffuse mesothelioma cancer compensation fund which will be established to assist those diagnosed with work-related mesothelioma cancer who are unable to trace their former employers.
The scheme enables victims of the asbestos-related disease, diagnosed with work-related diffuse mesothelioma cancer from 25th July 2012, who are unable to trace their former employers or their former employer´s insurers to claim against the fund.
The diffuse mesothelioma cancer compensation scheme will be funded by the insurance industry and is anticipated to pay up to 300 million pounds in compensation for diffuse mesothelioma cancer over the next ten years.
Speaking at the launch of the scheme, Lord Freud said “We have worked tirelessly together with the insurance industry to agree this package of measures on behalf of those who face this terrible disease. The new scheme will mean that, for the first time, sufferers of diffuse mesothelioma, who cannot trace either a liable employer or employers’ liability insurer, will have access to extra payments.”
Although welcomed as a step in the right direction, campaigners for mesothelioma sufferers and representatives of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) have criticised the scheme for not being sufficiently far-reaching.
They claim that it is not fair that those diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer prior to the 25th July will be excluded from claiming diffuse mesothelioma cancer compensation if their former employer is untraceable, as will victims of asbestosis, pleural plaques and asbestos-related lung disease.
The introduction of the fund to support former employees unable to claim diffuse mesothelioma cancer compensation will not affect the rights of former employees who have contracted the disease while working for companies still in existence such as BT.
Campaigners for changes to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Bill for mesothelioma No Win No Fee claims were delighted this week at the government´s decision to exempt asbestos-related injuries from their reforms.
In the bill, the government planned to remove access to conditional fee agreements for all personal injury claimants to address a perceived “compensation culture” and deter spurious claims. However, campaigners argued that “It is not right to put victims of an extraordinary disease, where no fraud is possible and compensation is certain, into a situation where in their last few months of life they are being forced to shop around for a lawyer in order to pay the least amount of success fees.”
Bowing to pressure from the Lords, the Department of Justice Minister – Jonathan Djanogly – announced that those suffering from mesothelioma cancer, asbestosis and diffuse pleural thickening would now become a special case. In a statement to the Commons, Mr Djanogly announced “careful reflection about the special case of mesothelioma sufferers”, and also said the government was looking at ways of making it easier for sufferers and their lawyers to trace their former employer’s insurers.
The news of the changes to mesothelioma No Win No Fee claims for compensation was also greeted on the opposition benches. Sadiq Khan – shadow justice secretary – told the House “The key question here is should victims of industrial diseases like mesothelioma have to hand over part of their damages to their lawyers and insurer, or should the wrongdoers fund the cost of the successful litigation?”
An ex-miner, who claimed he contracted mesothelioma while working for the National Coal Board, has won his asbestos related cancer compensation claim at London´s High Court.
Dennis Ball (92) from Beeston in Nottinghamshire worked for the National Coal Board at their Sutton and Moorgreen pits between 1967 and 1985. He alleged in his injury compensation claim that it was while he was working in the two collieries that he was exposed to asbestos which caused his mesothelioma cancer.
At London´s High Court, Mrs Justice Swift heard that Dennis had led a largely independent life prior to March 2010, when he was found on the floor of his flat by his step-son struggling to breath. He was moved to a care home where he was diagnosed with mesothelioma – the asbestos related cancer which lines the lungs and is incurable.
The judge was also told that the Department of Energy and Climate Change – the government body now responsible for handling the affairs of the National Coal Board and British Coal Corporation – admitted liability for Dennis´ illness and the asbestos related cancer compensation claim was now before her for assessment of damages.
After hearing that Dennis was a man with a fierce sense of independence and a fear of hospitals, Mrs Justice Swift awarded Dennis 73,890 pounds in asbestos related cancer compensation to account for his pain and suffering and the loss of his independence. The judge included in the award an amount of 20,000 pounds for “lost years of life”, commenting that “despite his age, his disease has had a devastating effect on his life”.
A former BT engineer is to get compensation for mesothelioma cancer after a judge in Bristol found BT negligent for exposing their employee to asbestos during his 27 years of employment with the company.
Frederick Vincent (76) from Shiphay in Torquay was awarded an interim payment of compensation for mesothelioma cancer after the court heard that he had been exposed to asbestos while working as an engineer for BT from 1962 until 1989.
During his time with the British Telecommunications PLC, Frederick explained that he frequently had to work in close proximity to asbestos lagged pipes and drill through asbestos insulation boards to gain access to telephone wires.
The court also heard that Frederick was diagnosed with aggressive mesothelioma cancer on his fiftieth wedding anniversary earlier this year – attributable, according to medical experts testifying on Frederick´s behalf, to his exposure to asbestos during the 1960s and 1970s.
The judge found in Frederick´s favour and awarded him a five-figure interim payment of compensation for mesothelioma cancer – with the full settlement of BT engineer compensation for mesothelioma cancer to be determined at a later date.
The interim compensation payment will be used to provide Frederick with private nursing care and medical equipment to help him through his illness. The family also hope to buy a car in order that Frederick´s wife – Jean – can take him to health appointments.
Footnote February 2012: Frederick Vincent passed away in January 2012 due to malignant mesothelioma cancer.