Lords urged to expand scope of Mesothelioma Bill
The Mesothelioma Bill – legislation to help people suffering from an asbestos-related cancer which was announced in the recent Queens Speech –returns to the House of Lords today (Wednesday 5th June).
Last month, Peers debated the general principles of the Bill. Today sees the start of line-by-line scrutiny by a House of Lords Grand Committee.
Digby Brown cautiously welcomed the announcement of the bill, which would establish a payment scheme for people diagnosed with Diffuse Mesothelioma after 25th July 2012, who were negligently exposed to asbestos, but also expressed our disappointment that it will only cover one type of asbestos-related condition and concern at the narrow definition of dependants and bereaved family members who will be entitled to payments if a Diffuse Mesothelioma sufferer in their family has died because of their illness.
We take the view that the proposal to limit payments under the scheme to 70% of average civil damages is wholly unfair. There would appear to be no justifiable reason to restrict the right of mesothelioma victims and their families in this way.
The provisons in relation to recovery of benefits require to be considered carefully and we would question whether there should be any offsetting at all.
We share the concerns of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) that the current definition of ‘dependants’ in the bill is extremely narrow, covering only spouse, reputed spouse, or a child or children who is either under the age of 16, under the age of 21 and not gainfully employed full-time, or someone who is permanently incapable of self-support.
Scottish Law, established in the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011, has a fairer and broader definition, which includes, for example, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren. Digby Brown, like APIL, would strongly submit that the Mesothelioma Bill should adopt the same definition of relatives and dependants as set out in the Damages (Scotland) Act and allow all those affected by this appalling disease, whose sufferers contracted it because of their employers’ negligence, the opportunity to be eligible to benefit from the scheme..
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