This event is reported on by Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group members Derek Maylor and Paul Lafferty:
Daniel Easton opened the event laying out the format for the day, which was to be busy. Daniel is experienced in dealing with complex and catastrophic injury claims and joint head (along with Harminder Bains) of the asbestos and mesothelioma team within Leigh Day. He introduced Harminder, who is well known to MAVSG, featuring regularly in the national media and internationally known for her asbestos campaigning.
Harminder themed her contribution on the three actors within the asbestos field “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, pleasingly MAVSG fall into The Good!
It examines corporate Spy Robert Moore who was hired by Matteo Bigazzi from K2 Intelligence Ltd resulting in a legal case being taken out against K2, and won, by Harminder alongside Laurie Kazan-Allen, Kishnendu Mukherjee, Sugio Furuya and Rory O’Neill (the latter being well known in trade union safety circles).
Kevin Johnson was next up, again known to MAVS and he heads up the asbestos cases in and around Merseyside, many of whom have victims who go on to develop the mesothelioma from the docks or working on boats. His topic was insurance and the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) which is the fund of last resort levied by the insurance companies. The Employers Liability CoP was last reviewed in November 1999, and it needs a further review which the DWP are supportive of getting this on the agenda, for example there is no provision for medical costs and a legal cost cap of £7k, however this may result in requiring primary legislation.
Next up was Steve Dickens who has been acting on behalf of asbestos exposure victims for nearly twenty years, mainly in the Greater Manchester area and Steve was followed by Louise Saville who specialises in victims that have been exposed to asbestos through less high-profile occupations such as teachers or office workers or claims from dust on the clothes of family members.
Claire Spearpoint was next, as well as serious injury and asbestos cases she also covers child brain injury cases. She noted that when gathering evidence it can lead to scatter-gun, is it better to home in on one or two areas? That is an open question and unanswerable, it’s a judgment call on each case, experience and an intuitive feeling will take you down the correct road. One disappointing quote from a judgement was that the claimant could not be relied upon the recall precise events from thirty years ago when they are suffering from the shock and trauma of finding out that they have mesothelioma and that this may cause false memory – if this were true, it would discount most evidence from a victim’s statement which is ridiculous (my words).
Steve Dickens returned to talk about Steven Doran, a local case, who worked in Quiggins in the town centre, painting beams that were coated with sprayed asbestos and he died in November 2022 aged just 54. Quiggins was a landmark Liverpool venue so the fact that it contained significant amounts of asbestos is shocking.
He noted that when drilling down to find an exposure source, ironically, a very cautious and safety-minded worker inevitably makes it more difficult to locate that exposure as they will have taken every practicable precaution.
Ewan noted that from his experience it was important to ask the right questions and that everything should be taken in context at that time, if a person was in a good place and you get them relaxed when you are talking to them, they may recall incidents better, conversely if they are down, may be better to leave certain specific parts of seeking the information you need.
As well as asbestos cases, Andrew deals with claimants who have other life changing industrial diseases such as acute silicosis, he is also experienced in complex catastrophic injury claims arising as a result of road traffic collisions or workplace injuries. He described a complex case he had recently dealt with, a civil exposure but the claimant of the deceased also had previous armed forces exposure for a separate cancer which had been paid whilst the claimant was alive.
Info, notes & sources:
• Our People (2023). Get in touch with our team of legal experts today. [Online]. Leigh Day. Last Updated: June. Accessed 22 September 2023. www.leighday.co.uk/about-us/our-people
• Gov.UK. (unknown). Diffuse mesothelioma payments. [Online]. © Crown copyright. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/diffuse-mesothelioma-payment [Accessed 23 September 2023].
• Andrew Percy MP (Conservative) has introduced a Private Members Bill (PMB) under the ten-minute rule for the creation of a national asbestos register. “A Bill to provide for a national register of asbestos present in non-domestic premises and of the condition of that asbestos; and for connected purposes”. UK Parliament. Updated: 14 September 11.30; https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3497 [Accessed 23 September 2023].
• The European Asbestos Forum is holding the sixth International Asbestos Conference (workshops and exhibition) at the Hotel Marriott Grand Place, Brussels on 30 November and 1 December 2023. There will be over twenty speakers from every asbestos related field, from five continents, bringing the state-of-the-art science, insights, experience, innovations, policy and campaigns.
• Implementation and enforcement of policies and procedures is a non-delegable duty.