Victims of mesothelioma, a cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, have succeeded in a judicial review against the Government’s decision to use part of their damages to pay for their legal costs. The High Court has ruled that Government plans to deduct legal fees from damages paid to people who are dying from asbestos exposure are unlawful.

In April 2013 the Government introduced reforms under the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) which required personal injury victims to use part of their damages to meet the costs of their claims. At the time there was an exemption for mesothelioma victims which was put in place so that a review of the full impact that LASPO was having on claimants could be undertaken after sufficient time had elapsed. The Asbestos Victims' Support Groups Forum UK brought the action against Justice Secretary Chris Grayling following his December 2013 decision to remove the exemption and allow up to 25% of damages awarded to mesothelioma sufferers to be used to pay for legal costs.

In his judgement, the honourable Mr Justice William Davis concluded that the Government had not carried out a proper review of the likely effect of LASPO reforms on mesothelioma claims and therefore any attempts to deduct costs from damages were unlawful.

Charlene McAuliffe, case manager in the personal injury team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “Mesothelioma is a devastating condition which can take decades to develop yet can end lives in a frighteningly short amount of time. The implications of deducting damages which are vital for care and support costs are wide-reaching and from our position, as the legal representative, the prospect of having to do so is not pleasant.

“Despite this victory, however, access to justice continues to be a prominent issue in the personal injury field. While the decision on mesothelioma claims is applauded, the requirements under LASPO remain in full force for all other personal injury claims and are ultimately at the expense of people who have been injured through no fault of their own. We  support the need for a full review of the impact that LASPO is having on claimants and hope that this latest decision by the High Court will encourage the Government to take a new approach which is based on justice for victims.”