Opponents of proposals by the Government to require mesothelioma sufferers to pay court fees of up to £10,000 to fund their claims against those responsible for them having contracted the terminal disease have won a victory which will benefit all future claimants.
The Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979 provides a lump sum award of up to £15,000 to sufferers of the disease, which is almost always contracted as a result of exposure to asbestos. This is in addition to any sum they might be awarded as a result of court proceedings for negligence against a former employer. Most contact with asbestos occurred in the workplace in the years before strict health and safety laws were brought in to control exposure.
However, the scheme that allows someone diagnosed with mesothelioma to bring a claim without having to fund it themselves is only available to those who have 'disposable capital' of less than £16,000.
The Government considered that the lump sum should be counted as disposable capital, meaning that the receipt of the award would require most mesothelioma sufferers to fund their own claims at a time when they are in poor health with a short life expectancy.
Following a challenge by the Asbestos Victim Support Groups Forum, the Government has agreed that the definition of disposable capital will be amended to exclude a sum received by a mesothelioma sufferer under the Act.