The reporting of mesothelioma compensation cases may appear to be unequal to the occurrences of asbestos exposure caused by either lack of asbestos awareness, negligence or failure to carry out the regulatory procedures.

In a majority of cases, a mesothelioma claim is likely to be settled out of court and thus, the deliberations, verdict and the resultant damages awarded by the presiding judge can be less often heard. A judge’s considerations over a particular asbestosis claim, especially at an appeal, may likely have an influence in determining future guidelines for judges in subsequent cases. In the last two years at least, there have been a number of instances where a plaintiff’s appeal case has been upheld, affecting subsequent hearing decisions, e.g. Employers Liability Policy Trigger Litigation.

Even though there are prior judicial guidelines intended to assist a judge in deciding a level of monetary compensation to be paid to a mesothelioma victim or their spouse, the final figure is at the discretion of the judge. Obviously, lawyers acting on behalf of their defendants, e.g. a former company employer or their insurers, will raise arguments aimed to dispute liability and/or reduce the level of damages.

A recent case concerned a former miner, aged 92, who was exposed to asbestos at his workplace between 1967 and 1985. While the fact of the victim’s asbestos exposure was not being contested, the defence instead argued against the size of the entitlement to mesothelioma compensation because of the “relatively short lifespan anticipated at his age” and thus, damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity ( due to the plaintiff’s advanced age) should be lowered.

However, the Judge stated, prior to the emergence of mesothelioma, the plaintiff was in reasonably good physical health, and “that a person of any age who is informed that his or her life will be cut short by the effect of a harmful substance to which he or she has been wrongly exposed is likely to suffer a good deal of distress.”

It is well documented that from an original asbestos exposure to the appearance of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms, an unusually long gestation period of up to 50 years can elapse. When a confirmed diagnosis is made, often the cancer is at an advanced stage, and life expectancy is expected to be around 6 months or less.

The Judge took into consideration the “total experience” of a mesothelioma claimant “regardless of the duration of the illness” including “the extent of the unpleasant surgical procedures… and typically the worst symptoms of pain, suffering and loss of amenity which occur in the last weeks and days of the disease’s progress …”

As a result, the mesothelioma compensation awarded was a total of nearly £74,000, of which £50,000 was for ‘pain, suffering and loss of amenity’.

The number of asbestosis claim cases has more than doubled in three years. Over 4,000 asbestos disease related deaths are recorded annually in the UK, and there are at least 2,000 cases of mesothelioma.