BBC Scotland report on seeking justice for indirect victims of asbestos

Older woman walking in Scotland

An important BBC Scotland news report today (4 July) is highlighting how some victims of asbestos exposure are being left unable to make claims for fair compensation despite becoming seriously ill through no fault of their own.

Euan Love, a Partner in Digby Brown’s Asbestos and Industrial Disease department, is interviewed as part of the report which featured on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland. Click here to listen to the report (which starts at 1:08:30), or read about the issue on the BBC Scotland website.

Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme

Euan discusses the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS). This is a scheme designed to compensate asbestos victims when an insurer of their former employer cannot be traced.

Euan and Mark Nicholson, an Associate in our Asbestos and Industrial Disease team, have been working to highlight a large group of people who are being excluded from seeking compensation despite having developed Mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos disease.

The DMPS came into force on the 31st March 2014 after passage of the Mesothelioma Act. Under the act, the scheme only pays compensation to Mesothelioma victims. This means people diagnosed with Pleural Plaques, Pleural Thickening, Asbestosis or Asbestos Related Lung Cancer cannot make a claim.

In order to make a claim the mesothelioma victim has to be able to show they were exposed to asbestos either negligently or their employer were in breach of their statutory duty, and victims are unable to bring a claim for compensation against the employer or that employer's Employers' Liability Insurer.

Asbestos victims currently barred from making a claim

In practice, this is a huge restriction as it means that anyone diagnosed with an asbestos related disease who falls outwith the definition of employee is barred from making a claim. A disproportionate number of those being prevented from making claims are women.

The BBC Scotland investigation includes the case of Ally and Trish Doig. Trish developed Mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos while living with her aunt and uncle in the 1970s.  Her Uncle used to drive her to Nursing College in his works van which was full of asbestos lagging products. She also used to help with the laundry, washing her uncle’s work overalls in the bath and recalls the stoor that came off the overalls and the ‘grey’ water.

However, Trish is not eligible to make a claim under the DMPS as she was not an employee. As the Dundee Boiler Covering Company is long out of business and there is no insurer in place, this leaves her with a horrendous fatal condition and no-one she or her family can seek redress from.

Digby Brown representing asbestos sufferers in similar situations 

Euan, Mark and the rest of the Digby Brown Asbestos and Industrial Disease team have other similar asbestos cases. These are claims where the people suffering from the asbestos conditions are women exposed to asbestos while washing their husbands working clothes. These cases frequently go uncompensated as the companies are no longer in business and there is almost always no insurer with appropriate cover (i.e. public liability).

As these women are excluded from the scheme there is no place they can turn to for compensation, despite there being a clear link between them developing their conditions and their husband’s employment.

The dangers of asbestos exposure were known to heavy industry in the UK from 1931 onwards and a time article from October 1965 is regarded as a watershed date for the danger of asbestos exposure being common knowledge in the UK.

However, employers failed to take action to reduce the use of asbestos products, did not supply respiratory protection and did not tell their workers about the dangers. This meant their workers would often go home in their working clothes, sit on public transport, play with their children all while covered in dangerous asbestos dust from their employment.