By: 10 August 2014
Firms applaud Justice Committee’s criticism of the Government’s Mesothelioma plans

Thompsons Solicitors and Irwin Mitchell have led the way in praising the Justice Committee for its report on mesothelioma claims, which contains a scathing attack on the Government’s decision to end legal costs exemption for Mesothelioma sufferers.

The Government announced its intention to end the special treatment of Mesothelioma claims in December last year and said that claimants would be required to pay legal costs as in all other claims under the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) Act.

However, the Chairman of the Justice Committee, Sir Alan Beith MP, said that the process had been “unsatisfactory on a number of levels”. The Committee’s report also found that the Government review had not been conducted “in a thorough and even handed way” and described the “shoehorning” of part of the review into a wider consultation on the claims process as “maladroit”.

The Committee has called on the Ministers to defer their decision and to undertake further consolidation.

Thompsons’ head of asbestos litigation, Ian McFall said that the Committee had shown that the Government’s review of the matter was “flawed from its inception” and heavily influenced by the insurance industry.

“The Government must avoid repeating the same error of judgment by rushing into another premature and inept review,” he said.

“Instead it should, as the Committee recommends, allow sufficient time to elapse – I would say another 3 or 4 years – before conducting a proper, transparent and thorough review when adequate evidence is available to assess the likely effect of LASPO on Mesothelioma claims. The victims and their families deserve nothing less.”

Adrian Budgen, national head of the asbestos disease litigation team at Irwin Mitchell who gave evidence to the Committee, praised the Committee for questioning the Government’s “close links” with the Association of British Insurers.

“We are pleased to see that the Inquiry has recognised that further consultation is needed before any changes are made to Mesothelioma claims – and recognised that any consultation should only take place after sufficient time has elapsed for the LASPO changes in non-Mesothelioma cases to be assessed,” said Budgen.

“Every person diagnosed with Mesothelioma has already paid the ultimate price, most often as a result of the negligence of their employer. So, to see them potentially face losing a significant part of the vital funds they and their family receive to cover care and support costs is just unthinkable and many victims would be put off making a claim thus denying them access to justice,” he added.