A recent high court appeal found that the government had not undertaken a ‘proper’ review into exempting mesothelioma claimants from sections 44 and 46 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), but had, instead, organised a series of ‘meetings’ in which to make their decision. In response to the court verdict, the MoJ indicated they would be considering their “next steps.”
Mesothelioma victims and their families will once again be distressed to hear that the MoJ seems unwilling to change their position and the likelihood of pursuing an appeal against the high court decision. In a recent parliamentary questions session, it appeared that the MoJ were unable to give any firm commitment to ensuring that the legal fees aspect of mesothelioma compensation payments would be “fairly treated.”
MoJ have not discounted making a further appeal
According to one spokesman for the MoJ, “We continue to work with stakeholders to see how we can improve the claims process for these tragic cases… we will certainly consider the way forward…” , which has been taken to mean that the MoJ have not discounted making a further appeal.
One MP then quoted from the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum, who found Justice Minister Chris Grayling’s actions were “rooted in a culture of secret deals with insurers and flawed consultations, which excluded the victims of asbestos.”
In response to a direct question which asked if it was now the time for the lord chancellor to “stop treating mesothelioma sufferers in a contemptible way” and honour the original commitment to exclude sufferers from all costs, the MoJ replied that the government was “committed to ensuring that victims and sufferers have the best possible way of going through the process, particularly in getting compensation.”
Shadow justice minister, Andy Slaughter, commented that “the minister is not answering the question”, adding that, “Parliament told him not to do it, victims told him not to do it, the justice committee told him not to do it, and so did the high court, but this minister is trying to do just that to protect the profits of the insurance industry.” Mr Slaughter also said ,“Most civilised people would not have to be told that it is wrong to cut compensation for people suffering in great pain from a terrible disease that will kill them in a matter of months.”
Seeing a successful resolution to a claim
The shadow justice minister is right to highlight the very short time left to victims from a confirmed diagnosis. The most distressing aspect of mesothelioma claim cases has almost always been that life expectancy for a victim may only be 2 to 6 months. Tragically, many pass away before they can see a successful resolution to a claim, which would have helped to provide vital care and a better quality of life in the remaining time, and to know their spouse and family they leave behind are financially secure.
The introduction of the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) in July 2014 aimed to speed up the process of providing financial help. However, many victims were excluded as a result of the July 2012 cut off date as well as victims diagnosed with all other asbestosis diseases.
Now it seems that mesothelioma victims are also losing their race against time to find out if they are indeed, to be excluded from legal costs or dealt a further blow to their present suffering.