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Court of Appeal offers compensation hope to victims of asbestos poisoning

In a landmark ruling that could pave the way for compensation for thousands of people suffering from cancer caused by asbestos, three Court of Appeal judges today upheld an appeal against the way the dangers of the lethal fibres are measured.

Caroline Pinfold from Fieldfisher successfully pursued the case of behalf of Veronica Bussey whose husband David died from the disease in 2016.

Hundreds of sufferers from mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos, could have been denied access to vital funds for private treatment because data produced by HM Factory Inspectorate in the 1970s have been wrongly assumed to absolve employers of responsibility.

Peter Williams, head of asbestos claims at Fieldfisher, said:

“These data that measured levels of asbestos fibres in the air have been wrongly applied by employers and their lawyers to deny or delay claimants the compensation they deserved.

“The guidelines created 40 or so years ago quantified the levels of fibres allowed in the air below which an employer would not be prosecuted. Instead, defendants and the courts have wrongly applied the measurements as a guide to employers of a so-called ‘safe’ level of asbestos that people could work in.

“This is never what the data were intended for. But following another legal case in 2011, Williams v the University of Birmingham, they became the test against which all other claims have since been measured.  Finally, the judges have acknowledged that it is wrong.

“I know the ruling will come as a huge relief for mesothelioma sufferers and their families who have had their cases put on hold waiting for this decision. Sadly, many others will have died in the meantime without being given funds to pursue private immunotherapy treatment that could have given them some respite.”

David Bussey died aged 72 from mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos. He worked as a heating engineer for Anglia heating in the late 1960s.  His job entailed cutting and manoeuvring asbestos cement pipes and rope, without any mask to protect him from the dust or advice about the risks.

Veronica Bussey pursued a claim for compensation claim originally against one of her husband's employers, Pump Maintenance Limited, but her second claim against Anglia Heating Ltd for the balance of damages was dismissed by His Honour Judge Yelton in the High Court in May last year.

Judge Yelton decided he was bound to follow the case of Williams v University of Birmingham which was decided by the Court of Appeal in 2011.

Today’s ruling overturns that decision.

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