Sponsored guest post: “Is it more difficult for women with mesothelioma to claim compensation?

“Is it more difficult for women with mesothelioma to claim compensation?
BY John Pickering and Partners LLP

At a National Lung Cancer conference 3 or 4 years ago, a solicitor speaker was asked whether it was worth women with mesothelioma making a claim.  The obvious answer to that is ‘yes, of course,’ but the questioner had highlighted a perceived problem for women who have mesothelioma and want to claim compensation.

We are likely to see more women with mesothelioma over the next decade.  According to the 2008 HSE study, the number of annual deaths amongst women has increased more rapidly than the increase amongst men over the last 10 years. Although increasing, the number of women with mesothelioma is not yet 20% of the total number in the UK.

How do women with mesothelioma fare under the litigation process compared with men?  Many of the women that I see with mesothelioma come from a group of women who have had slight or intermittent exposure.  Some examples of those who have had slight or intermittent exposure are those who work in offices or factories where asbestos has been used or in buildings where asbestos had been part of the construction or makeup of the building. For example I have seen nurses, teachers, office workers, caterers and process workers.  Some are unaware initially as to where they have had exposure.

The UK Benefits System favours those who recollect exposure to asbestos dust during their work.  Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit is only there for those who have had exposure during work.  This is a payment of £150.30 per week which can mount up to a substantial sum.

Under the civil system of litigation, it is often more difficult for women to claim successfully.  I think that this is partly because men have multiple sources of exposure to asbestos. I have seen situations where siblings have developed asbestos disease having had exposure to asbestos dust from their father’s clothing in the 1950’s.  The boys have been able to claim compensation from their employers because they have gone to work in industries where they have had further asbestos exposure whereas the girls have not been able to claim because there is no legal liability for family members if the exposure took place in the 1950’s.

In terms of evidence of exposure, men are more likely to have handled asbestos directly themselves and are more likely to recall exposure to it.

A French study which was published last year in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that the incidence of mesothelioma without any identified asbestos exposure (IAE) is usually higher among women, while male incidence is mainly attributed to IAE.  The study concluded that mesothelioma mortality incidence showed that female cases occur in the same geographical areas as male cases suggesting asbestos has a major influence on female mesothelioma, most likely through environmental exposure. It makes it more unfair that women have a harder struggle to claim.

A decision from the Supreme Court in March gives some hope to women. The case concerned 2 women who had been exposed to asbestos dust. One lady had worked in a factory and another was a school pupil whom I represented. Both had had comparatively light exposure to asbestos. Despite this, both succeeded.

So, it is possible through persistence to be able to claim compensation for women who have very little recollection of asbestos exposure through obtaining witness evidence and documentation to support the claim.

For more information about claiming compensation it is advised to seek advice from a Mesothelioma solicitor.”

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