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Home > What We Do > 90 years of Law > Present Day

Present Day

Personal Injury Campaigns

Clear Answers is a division of Thompson Solicitors, the most experienced Personal Injury Law Firm in the UK. We are dedicated to defending the rights of workers and fighting for their personal injury accident compensation. Please select one of the links below to read more about the recent campaigns which we have been involved with, and are still fighting.

Thompsons - Fighting for Workers Compensation

Both the cases below improved the protection afforded to workers under new and old regulatory frameworks applicable to dangerous substances. Once again they demonstrate that Thompsons' aggressive approach to litigation can bring benefits to large groups of workers.

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The COSHH Regulations

Dugmore v Swansea NHS Trust and another (2003):

This case involved a claim against a hospital under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (the COSHH Regulations).

The claimant worked as a nurse. She had suffered eczema and asthma all her life. Between 1993 and 1995 she developed an allergy to latex as a result of using powdered latex gloves in the course of her work.

There was no published evidence before 1993 that the use of latex gloves could result in latex allergy. In 1996 the hospital provided her with vinyl gloves after she suffered a serious reaction whilst performing a procedure using latex gloves. In 1997 whilst employed at a different hospital and using vinyl gloves she suffered an anaphylactic attack when picking up an empty box which had contained latex gloves. She had to give up work.

The court held that the duty under the COSHH Regulations was absolute: to ensure that exposure was prevented or adequately controlled. The defence of reasonable practicability qualified only the duty of total prevention. The employer could have provided vinyl gloves. The purpose of the regulations was protective and preventative and the claimant therefore succeeded in her claim against the first hospital.

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The Asbestos Industry Regulations

Supreme Court Judgment (2012)

On behalf of the family of Charles Michael O’Farrell, an appeal against the Court of Appeal decision in 2010 was taken to the Supreme Court. The insurers had argued that the “trigger” for their liability to pay compensation was the development of the disease and not at the time of exposure. The Supreme Court judgment was handed down in March 2012 by Lord Clarke. The judgment concluded that “The whole purpose of these policies was to insure employers against liability to their employees. That purpose would be frustrated if the insurers’ submissions at this point were accepted”.

This landmark decision removes at last the uncertainty for victims and their families affected by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, and confirms their right to claim compensation against their employer(s) at the time of their negligent exposure.

In addition, the ruling also applies to other industrial diseases.

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Court of Appeal decision (2010)

The family of Charles Michael O’Farrell, whose test case claim for mesothelioma compensation went to the High Court in 2008, were told by the Court of Appeal that the compensation awarded by the High Court would not be paid. Employer’s insurers, Excess Insurance Company, had appealed against the High Court ruling that the family could receive the mesothelioma compensation awarded to them several years earlier.

That decision was based on an insurance policy containing the wording “sustain” and “injury”. The question the court had to decide was whether, in a mesothelioma claim, injury was sustained at the time the worker was exposed to asbestos or many years later when they developed the asbestos-related disease, when no insurance was likely to be in place against which to make a claim.

By a 2:1 majority the Court of Appeal ruled that in some cases the “trigger” for liability under the employer’s insurance is the development of the disease and not at the time of exposure. Its ruling means that in every case, the precise wording of the insurance contract will need to be studied to determine whether the policy in place at the time of exposure can be used to compensate the victim.

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High Court rules in favour of mesothelioma victims (2008)

In November 2008, the High Court ruled on a test case for mesothelioma victim, Charles Michael O’Farrell. Mr O’Farrell died in 2003 but his daughter, Mrs Edwards, continued the claim on his behalf. Clear Answers’ solicitors, Thompsons Solicitors, fought and won the claim for mesothelioma compensation in court against Mr O’Farrell’s employers, a defunct company, who negligently exposed him to asbestos many years earlier. The family were awarded compensation of £152,000 against the defunct employer.

The employer’s insurers, Excess Insurance Company Limited, then refused to pay out. They argued that the trigger for the insurance policy was when Mr O’Farrell developed mesothelioma, not when he was exposed to asbestos. Excess were the employer’s insurers at the time he was exposed to asbestos but they knew that no insurance existed which would respond to the claim at the time the disease developed.

The decision by the High Court that the insurance policy trigger is the exposure to asbestos will mean that thousands of mesothelioma sufferers and their families will continue to be able to claim compensation now and in the future.

Excess Insurance were granted permission to appeal.

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Personal Injury - Asbestos - The Fight Goes On

Some cases involving asbestos-related disease show the dispute about liability from some employers and the insurance industry:

Rothwell v Chemical & Insulating Co. Ltd and Others (2007)

The cases of 10 workers suffering pleural plaques, were brought before the High Court in 2005 when the employers' insurers argued that no compensation should be paid because pleural plaques are not a significant injury. The insurers were unsuccessful in that the High Court decided that pleural plaques sufferers should continue to receive compensation but that the amounts of compensation should be reduced. The insurers appealed the decision.

The appeals to the Court of Appeal in 2006 and the House of Lords in 2007 overturned the High Court's decision. In October 2007 the Law Lords ruled that pleural plaques do not constitute an injury and therefore people who have developed pleural plaques are not entitled to compensation. They also ruled that a claim cannot be brought for anxiety caused by a diagnosis of pleural plaques.

Since then, trade unions have campaigned vigorously for the right to compensation to be restored.

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Section 3 of the Compensation Act 2006

In response to the unjust outcome of the Barker decision, a campaign led by Trade Unions and asbestos victim support groups and backed by many Labour MP's and Clear Answers' specialist lawyers, Thompsons, among others, brought about the introduction of legislation in July 2006 to reverse the House of Lords decision in Barker and restore the right to full compensation for mesothelioma.

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Barker and Others v St Gobain Pipelines Ltd and Others (2004)

Following on from the Fairchild appeal the defendants in the Barker case argued that they should not be liable to pay full compensation to mesothelioma victims but instead that compensation should be limited to the extent the employer had contributed to the risk of causing mesothelioma.

The intended effect of this was to reduce compensation payments for mesothelioma victims who were unable to bring a claim against every employer that had exposed them to asbestos. This was very often the case because employers had gone out of business and no insurers could be found.

The House of Lords accepted the defendants' arguments. Their decision deprived many mesothelioma victims of their entitlement to full compensation.

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Fairchild v Glenhaven Funeral Services and Others (2002)

Three similar cases where defendants tried to avoid paying compensation for mesothelioma, a fatal type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure, on the basis that the victims could not prove which company had caused the disease. The Law Lords decided that any company which was at fault by exposing workers to asbestos to the extent that it materially increased the risk of causing mesothelioma, would be responsible in law for compensating the victims in full.

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Dawson v The Cherry Tree Machine Company Ltd and Another (2001)

In this case, handled by Thompsons, Clear Answers' specialist lawyers, and heard by the Court of Appeal in 2001, an important point of interpretation arose in respect of the Asbestos Industry Regulations 1931.

Mr Dawson was employed by the company as an apprentice fitter from 1945 to 1949. The company manufactured dry cleaners' presses. From 1946 to 1948 part of his job was to seal the presses with asbestos to stop steam escaping. He would take a couple of handfuls of asbestos flock, put it in a bucket and mix it with water and then apply it. He alleged that the employers were in breach of the 1931 regulations.

The employers argued that the 1931 regulations only applied to the asbestos industry and not the incidental use of asbestos in other industries. The judge agreed with Thompsons' interpretation and this was upheld in the Court of Appeal, a decision of considerable importance to anyone suffering from an asbestos-related disease as a result of exposure since World War 2.

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The BBC have followed these campaigns with interest and links to some of their stories can be found below:

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Thompsons Today

The firm continues to be actively involved in exploring new areas of law to secure and protect the rights of employees and continues to bring major litigation for the victims of asbestos exposure and mining related conditions.

Additionally Thompsons is involved with international issues, using our expertise in the field of industrial disease to help, for example, South African miners and their families to win a landmark settlement.

Making a claim for accident compensation or personal injury compensation

Our section on information and advice may help you decide what to do next if you believe you may have a claim for personal injury.

Or if you have been involved in any kind of accident, please visit our gathering information and evidence section for details of what may be required in order to make an accident claim for compensation.

If you or a member of your family have suffered any type of personal injury through no fault of your own, please contact Clear Answers on 0800 783 9019 and speak to one of our representatives.

Alternatively fill out an online compensation claim form. One of our representatives will contact you as soon as possible to discuss whether you have a valid personal injury compensation claim.

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