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Claimant lawyers condemn ‘deal with insurers’ over Mesothelioma Bill

'Something to fill the gap, but it could have been a lot better'

15 January 2014

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Claimant lawyers have condemned what they say was a deal done between the government and insurers over the Mesothelioma Bill. The bill passed all its stages in parliament last week and is awaiting Royal Assent.

Ian McFall, head of the national asbestos team at Thompsons, said the bill was a "long time coming and fell a long way short of what victims and their families expected".

McFall said the previous government launched a consultation in February 2010 on a comprehensive form of protection for all injured workers.

He said the Mesothelioma Bill did not even cover "all industrial diseases, or all asbestos-related diseases, or even all mesothelioma cases," but only those diagnosed after the ministerial statement of July 2012.

"The government did a deal behind closed doors with the insurers. It stacks up very heavily in favour of the insurers and leaves the victims and their families short-changed."

Karl Tonks (pictured), immediate past president of APIL and industrial disease specialist, said: "At least we have got one, and there is something to fill the gap which we had for so long, but it could have been a lot better".

"The government negotiated with insurers and they said 75 per cent was the maximum they could afford. The insurers produced calculations to justify the argument that if they gave any more than that, they would have to put up employers' liability insurance.

"It's no fault of the clients, so why should they pay the penalty?"

Tonks said damages would be limited to 75 per cent of the average damages they would have obtained if they went to court, but recoupment of the claimant's social security benefits would be at 100 per cent.

"The scheme applies only to mesothelioma sufferers, but not to other asbestos-related diseases, the outcome of which is the same as mesothelioma, namely death. These people will still lose."

Tonks added that some things the bill provided an opportunity to deal with, such as more funding for mesothelioma research and speeding up the provision of medical reports, were not taken forward.

He added that there was no link between the Mesothelioma Act coming into force in July this year and the end of the LASPO exemption on recoverability of success fees and ATE insurance premiums, due to happen at the same time.

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