We wrote a story a few months ago about how the insurance industry had petitioned the government to bring mesothelioma sufferers within the LASPO Act which would mean that large deductions would be taken from the compensation of terminally ill people and the premium to purchase an Insurance policy to protect them against large legal bills for these claims would be deducted from their compensation. This was to offset the cost to the insurance industry of them contributing to the fund which will compensate victims of mesothelioma where an insurer cannot be traced.
Today in the High Court, as reported in the Law Society Gazette, the Honourable Mr Justice Williams said the issue was whether Grayling had conducted a ‘proper review’ of the likely effect of reforms on cancer sufferers.
‘I conclude that he did not,’ said Williams. ‘It is now for the lord chancellor to carry out a proper review of the likely effects of the LASPO reforms in whatever manner he concludes will permit him reasonably to achieve the required purpose.’
Mesothelioma cases were left out of new rules in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act in April 2013 which meant claimants can be charged up to 25% of their awarded damages to pay for success fees and after-the-event insurance which was previously paid by the insurers. An amendment to the act places an obligation on the government to carry out and publish a full review of the effect of applying the new rules to mesothelioma sufferers.
The asbestos victims’ groups argued in court that no such review had taken place before the government announced, last December, that it would lift the exemption. Documents were produced to suggest that this was a secret deal between the government and insurance industry.
The government argued in court that the required review was carried out as part of the consultation ‘Reforming Mesothelioma Claims’ which took place between July and October 2013. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) intervened in the court action in support of the government.
A spokesperson for Leigh Day, who brought the judicial review against the decision, said: ‘This government is seemingly intent on doing what it is told by the insurance industry against the best interests of those suffering from the negligent behaviour of the insured.
Today’s judgment should send a clear message to the government that it has to conform with the laws of the land and cannot ride roughshod over the interests of mesothelioma sufferers and their families to benefit the insurance industry.’
Tony Whitston, chair of the UK wide Forum of Asbestos Support Groups, called on the government to: ‘see this judgment as an opportunity to take a new approach based on justice for victims and not the profits of big financial institutions’. He added: ‘The old plans were rooted in a culture of secret deals with insurers and flawed consultations, which excluded the victims of asbestos. Now is the time for a change.’
In August we reported that the justice select committee of the House of Commons criticised the government over its approach to compensation for sufferers of mesothelioma and urged the coalition to hold a fresh consultation.
MP’s also expressed their surprise at a document dated July 2012 called ‘Mesothelioma Heads of Agreement’ between the government and the ABI.
Steven Evans, head of disease at WE Solicitors said “Nobody who has day to day contact with mesothelioma sufferers and their families believed that the manner in which the review had been undertaken was fair or just. I have heard Mr Dalton talk on behalf of the ABI. The justification of their position that it was in the sufferers interests for them to fall within the confines of the LASPO Act was in poor taste.
In most cases of a mesothelioma claim the compensation sufferers are entitled to simply goes to ease their suffering with extra care or ensure the future financial stability of loved ones left behind. Large deductions from damages and reductions in costs do not serve sufferers of this terrible disease but enhance the dividends paid to shareholders and investors. Sufferers deserve the compensation more than the insurers need a hike in profits. However I doubt it will be the last time the insurance industry attempt to reduce compensation and costs and take needless points to deny victims of their rightful compensation.”
If you or a loved one has been affected by this story please do not hesitate to contact Steven Evans at WE Solicitors on 0800 294 3065.