In a report published last week, the House of Commons Justice Committee has urged the Government to stall proposals to remove the exemption for mesothelioma claims in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
Representatives of mesothelioma victims, claimant lawyers and trades unions argue that the special characteristics of mesothelioma claims make it necessary to maintain their exemption from sections 44 and 46 of LASPO.
If mesothelioma claims have their exemption removed, the enforced sections of 44 and 46 of the LASPO act will affect the amount of compensation claimants can receive. These sections of the act prevent winning claimants recovering from defendants success fees charged by their lawyers or premiums for insurance against having to meet defendants’ costs (after the event, or ATE, insurance).
These sections of legislation have applied to all other personal injury claims since April 2013, but section 48 of LASPO required Ministers to undertake a review before they could be brought into effect for claims relating to mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung arising from exposure to asbestos.
Following a short inquiry into mesothelioma claims, the committee called on the Government to carry out a further consultation on the current mesothelioma exemption, “which should be framed unambiguously and centrally on the question of whether the LASPO provisions should be brought into effect for mesothelioma”.
The committee also expressed concern that the Government has not been “transparent or open” with the committee or other stakeholders when shaping its policy on mesothelioma, referring to the “agreement” which was reached with the insurance industry.
Responding to the news, APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) president John Spencer said: “If anyone needs and deserves 100 per cent of their compensation, it is surely the people who are dying as a result of turning up for work. To make a decision which has such critical consequences for claimants and on access to justice in these hard-fought and complex cases requires serious justification and proper consultation.”
“We are relieved that the committee has called for informed consideration of the impact of the LASPO Act and it would be unwise for the Ministry of Justice to proceed otherwise. A more detailed review should already have been carried out by the Ministry of Justice before the decision was made to remove the exemption,” he added.
If you or a family member have been affected by mesothelioma, please contact us today on Freephone 0800 294 3065 or talk to us on live chat.