Asbestos disease victims see justice as Scottish courts adapt
The COVID-19 pandemic brought all personal injury cases, including asbestos disease cases, in Scotland’s courts to a grinding halt.
The initial response of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service was of real concern to the Industrial Disease Team at Digby Brown.
Hearings of evidence were cancelled and cases were put on hold. New court actions could not be commenced.
For those individuals pursuing claims for asbestos related diseases, this posed particular problems.
They are likely to be over the age of 70 and some of the illnesses caused by asbestos exposure significantly shorten their life expectancy.
Having their cases resolved as quickly as possible is therefore of critical importance and without an active court system, that aim becomes almost impossible to achieve.
Clients with mesothelioma, the invariably fatal asbestos related cancer, may not live to see the conclusion of their cases and justice against the companies at fault for their condition.
However, in recent weeks, there has been real progress.
The courts have recognised the importance of asbestos disease cases and have prioritised them.
We are now able to commence court actions on behalf of our clients in reasonable numbers. Telephone hearings with Judges are taking place as Scottish courts adapt to remote working.
In cases for clients suffering with mesothelioma, we have persuaded the court not only to arrange a hearing of evidence by video link, but to bring the date of the hearing forward by several months.
Not doing so would have resulted in irredeemable prejudice to these clients and this was quickly recognised by the court. One of these cases resolved shortly prior to the date for the virtual hearing of evidence.
The courts are starting to demonstrate a commendable willingness to embrace technology in order to ensure that access to justice for those with asbestos related diseases is not affected by the pandemic.
By taking a proactive approach, and working with the courts, we have been able to protect the interest of our clients during these very challenging times.