Hyndburn, U.K.–A legal test case may spur additional mesothelioma and other asbestos-related claims in the United Kingdom. After working for Premier Construction Ltd. for 20 years, Arthur Eddleston was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March 1996. He died just a few months later. Now his widow, Joan, is struggling to receive compensation, and has taken her case to London’s Appeals Court.
Joan initially brought a case against Premier Construction, Ltd., which is based in Lancashire, and won a verdict. Yet the firm went out of business and did not pay damages to Eddleston’s family. Although it was later discovered that the company had a policy with Independent Insurance, that company too failed to pay the family. Independent Insurance has gone into compulsory liquidation, forcing Joan to seek remunerations from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which is also refused to make a payment to her.
A High Court ruling last November deemed that liability arises in mesothelioma cases at the time of exposure to asbestos, and not when the tumor actually develops or the cancer is diagnosed. The insurers were given permission to challenge that ruling, however, and now they are doing so. The insurers claim that they should not be held liable for exposure to asbestos that occurred years or even decades ago, and if the Appeals Court rules in their favor, it may mean that mesothelioma victims or their families will have no form of recompense. In addition to Joan Eddleston and her family, two other families are involved in the current appeal. Mesothelioma, an unusual cancer that affects the membrane which lines the lungs and chest cavity, is exclusively linked to asbestos exposure. It is an incurable cancer with a long latency period, which means that someone may be exposed to asbestos but not be diagnosed with mesothelioma until 20 to 50 years later. Most patients have an average life expectancy after diagnosis of only 18 months on average. Mesothelioma may be treated, in rare cases, with surgery; chemotherapy and radiation may also be options, but many patients are only eligible for palliative care or pain management, due to the cancer’s severity and the fact that it is not usually diagnosed until it has reached an advanced stage.