Landmark judgment secures access to justice for Mesothelioma sufferers

January 26, 2015

Irwin Mitchell have reported that the case of an asbestos-related cancer victim, whose case reached the Supreme Court in October 2014, will protect the rights of future sufferers to ensure they receive a fair settlement to provide for their families after their death.

Five judges had examined the case of delivery driver Percy McDonald, from Devon, whose life was tragically cut short by the aggressive terminal cancer mesothelioma, caused by exposure to dangerous asbestos dust decades ago when he regularly visited Battersea Power Station to pick up waste products.

It had previously been argued by the defendant that Percy and his family could not receive compensation because he was not employed by the occupier of the site and because their primary work was not directly involved in the asbestos industry. However, industrial disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who represented Percy’s family after he sadly died just a week before the Supreme Court hearing, say that the ruling in the family’s favour clarifies the law and gives greater protection to current and future victims of industrial diseases and accidents who are simply carrying out their day-to-day jobs.

The majority Judgment provides guidance on several key points of law.

  • It establishes that under the Factories Act it is the occupier of the premises that is responsible for the welfare of the people on site, not just those that it directly employs.
  • It also states that the Asbestos Industry Regulations apply to all factories using asbestos – not just those involved in the asbestos industry.

The Judgment by the Supreme Court now paves the way for Irwin Mitchell to secure a fair settlement to provide financial support for the family after Percy died through no fault of his own.

Alida Coates, Partner in Irwin Mitchell’s Asbestos-Related Disease team, said, “This is a victory for all victims of asbestos-related diseases who have been exposed to the deadly dust while visiting factory premises as part of their day-to-day job. It also extends the scope of the Factories Act to assist those injured during their work on factory sites. It makes perfectly clear that the occupiers of the factory building have responsibility for protecting people engaged in processes on their site, not just their direct employees.

This judgment will not only provide reassurance for those who are currently in a similar situation and are also suffering from mesothelioma or other industrial diseases,but also the many people who will receive the devastating news in future that they have contracted the terminal cancer as a result of exposure decades ago.”

Mr McDonald’s son, Eric, said, “As a family we wanted to carry on the case after Dad’s death because we knew how important it was to him and wanted to ensure that others would be protected in future. It was only because he went to work every day that he became ill, and that was extremely difficult for us to come to terms with. I’m really pleased with the Supreme Court’s Judgment and thank the judges for taking the time to hear our case. I’ve seen first-hand how devastating mesothelioma can be and we were all distraught when Dad died, especially as he didn’t get to finish what he started in the courts. We would rather have Dad with us still, but hopefully other people affected will now be able to succeed in their legal battles too.”