A judge’s landmark ruling at a mesothelioma compensation hearing in February of this year may have been an early signal of changes to award levels recommended in the 11th Edition of the Judicial Studies Board (JSB) Guidelines, published in September.

A mesothelioma claim awarded to a 92 year old former National Coal Board employee was increased by nearly 43 per cent from the then JSB recommendation of £35,000 to £50,000, The judge’s ruled that due to the stress caused to the victim by the knowledge that life would soon end as a result of the “wrongful exposure” to asbestos, a ‘significantly’ higher compensation figure than was recommended by the JSB guidelines would be awarded.

The Judge’s actions seemed to signal a clear precedent for an ‘appropriate compensation’ to be awarded in an asbestosis claim for the pain and suffering endured “regardless of the length of time” the victim survived following a confirmed diagnosis. It is well-documented that there is, invariably, a long gestation period of up to 50 years or more from the initial exposure period to when the first signs of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms emerge. The often advanced and diffuse spread of the tumours means that the victim may only have a life expectancy of around 6 months.

In this case, the victim who lived alone, had originally been exposed to asbestos as a miner between 1967 and 1985 but a diagnosis of mesothelioma was only confirmed in January 2011 with a life expectancy of 3 months.

Arguing in accordance to previous precedent, the defendant had claimed that due to the victim’s short life expectancy, the amount of compensation he should receive ought to be reduced. The Judge’s unexpected departure from the guidelines may be viewed as paving the way for other mesothelioma victims, irrespective of their age, to be awarded compensation, which more truly reflects the terrible pain and suffering the fatal and incurable disease causes.

There have been significant changes in recent years to the JSB guidelines, which are used by judges to assist in determining levels of mesothelioma compensation. Until the 11th edition was published, the lower range of recommended damages had previously been reduced to allow a smaller payment in cases of an ‘average’ victim survival time of between 12 and 18 months.

Appearing now as an almost prescient act by the Judge just six months earlier, the lower end of the time scale for mesothelioma claim amounts has also been increased by 43 per cent, as recommended in the September JSB edition.