The press reported recently that British Steel Limited had been placed into compulsory liquidation putting 5,000 jobs at risk. The Official Receiver took control of the company as part of the liquidation process. We understand that British Steel Limited continues to trade normally, but the limited company was transferred to the Official Receiver because the company did not have sufficient funds to pay for an administration.

A statement from the Official Receiver reported

“good progress is being made in identifying potential buyers for British Steel. Multiple parties have signed non-disclosure agreements, giving them access to a detailed information memorandum and virtual data-remit by teams developed to inform their bid. Expressions of interest are due with me by early June”

The company was wound up in the High Court on 22 May 2019.

There are though many companies within the British Steel Group who are continuing of course to trade that and are still active with assets and are not in insolvency British Steel Limited itself was incorporated in February 2015 having a different name, being one of the British Steel group of companies.

In asbestos disease cases, we always sue the successor in title to the company that employed our clients unless there is evidence that the liabilities have been taken over by another company or an entity say that they will meet the claim for damages despite not being the strict successor in title. The history and structure of the British Steel companies is fairly complicated.

What this means for our clients

Understandably, some of our clients are worried about what this means for their case. I was immediately contacted the day that the news broke by one of my clients who has her case issued at the High Court to ask if this would have any affect on her case. My client is a widow who sadly lost her husband due to the devastating disease of mesothelioma, and asbestos-related cancer in this case affecting her husband’s pleura (the lining of the lungs). Like many of our former and current clients, the deceased alleged he was exposed to asbestos as part of his previous employment at one of the steel works in the 1970’s. Many years later, he developed symptoms of shortness of breath, followed by breathlessness, fatigue, nausea, weight loss and general debility, receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma. Towards the end of his life he required high levels of painkilling medication and nursing care and was aware that he had an incurable condition. Despite advances in clinical trials, mesothelioma remains a fatal condition.

The entity that appeared on my client’s schedule was “The British Steel Corporation” and it is not the same company as British Steel Limited that have been pursued in this particular case. The important point for mesothelioma and other asbestos disease sufferers who may have been exposed to asbestos whilst in employment at British Steel is that employers liability insurance was compulsory after 1972 and in many cases, it is these insurers that will meet any claims for damages. We have a record of many companies where it is alleged that asbestos exposure occurred and details of the insurers in various periods of employment.

It is often the case that we need to pursue companies that were put into compulsory or voluntary liquidation many years ago and have subsequently been dissolved/wound up. In this circumstance, we notify the potential claim to the insurers and we make an application to the court to restore the company, that is to reinstate the name of the company at Companies House so that we can issue proceedings against the company (if necessary).

It is regularly the case that proceedings do not need to be issued and the restoration process does not even begin because insurers can make pragmatic decisions to settle cases quickly. If proceedings do need to be issued for whatever reason, then we will complete the restoration process, issue proceedings against the previously dissolved company but continue to liaise with the insurers and later on solicitors who become appointed to deal with the claim.