Government plan further review of funding for Mesothelioma Claims
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The Justice Minister, Lord Faulks, recently confirmed in Parliament that the Government will undertake a further review into the way Mesothelioma claims are funded.
The news follows the Government's defeat in a High Court judicial review decision in October 2014, brought by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum.
The High Court decided that the restrictions the Government tried to impose on Claimant's bringing a claim for Mesothelioma, under the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012, were unlawful as the Ministy of Justice (MoJ) failed to fulfil its duties.
Mr Justice William Davis stated in the decision: “The issue is whether [the justice secretary, Chris Grayling] conducted a proper review of the likely effect of the LASPO reforms on mesothelioma claims. I conclude that he did not. No reasonable Lord Chancellor faced with the duty imposed on him by the act would have considered that the exercise in fact carried out fulfilled that duty”.
The Justice Select Committee reviewing the evidence in the case criticised the Government, stating “we are concerned that the government has not been transparent or open, either with us or with other interested parties, about the fact that its overall policy in relation to mesothelioma has been shaped in accordance with an ‘agreement’, however informal and elastic, which it had reached with employers’ liability insurers."
The Committee continued “it is hard to see how a balanced and informed public debate can take place when a prior agreement has been reached between two of the principal parties to that debate, and that agreement is not known to others participating in the debate, including victims.”
As a result of the High Court's decision, Conditional Fee Agreements (often referred to as no-win no-fee agreements) in mesothelioma cases continue to operate on a pre-LASPO Act basis. This means that any additional legal costs, including the Conditional Fee Agreement success fees and ATE insurance premiums, remain payable by the losing party and there are no deductions to a successful Claimant's damages.
Lord Faulks responding to questions in the House of Lords regarding the proposed changes and the need for additional funding for research, stated "I reject the allegation the Government have done nothing", adding "Mesothelioma is a terrible disease and the Government is determined to do what it can to help sufferers and their families."
Lord Faulks continued "these issues will be considered as part of that [further review] process. Further details on the format and timing of that review will be set out in due course."
Mesothelioma is a tumour which affects the mesothelium, commonly in the lining of the lung but can also affect the lining of the abdomen or heart. Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos and tragically even a small amount of exposure to asbestos can lead to the disease.
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