Government U-Turn Over Court Fees For Mesothelioma Claimants

8th July 2015

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Mesothelioma sufferers and the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK have brought legal action against the Government in relation to court fees which has led to a change in the law.

The change will benefit mesothelioma claimants and, as a result, defendants, who will now face lower disbursements on successful claims.

Background

In March 2015, the Government introduced increased court fees under which claims valued up to £200,000 incur fees of up to £10,000 (see our previous update on the rise in court fees here). Most damages claims for mesothelioma are worth close to that maximum.

The claimants argued that having to pay a court fee of up to £10,000 out of their capital in the last months of their lives would prevent them from bringing a claim.

The Government’s position was that such claimants would be able to rely on the court fee remission scheme (the Scheme) and would therefore either be able to avoid paying any court fee or pay only a proportion of the fee in line with their income.

The problem with this argument was that mesothelioma victims invariably obtain a lump sum payment of, on average, £13,000 under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers Compensation) Act 1979 (PWCA) or the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme. Anyone with ‘disposable capital’ of over £16,000 falls outside the Scheme and therefore mesothelioma claimants with only a nominal amount of other capital would be unable to benefit from it.

Outcome of the legal action

On 2 July 2015, the Government agreed to exclude from the definition of ‘disposable capital’ payments made to mesothelioma sufferers under the PWCA and the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme.

The change will be brought into statutory force as soon as possible but, in the meantime, such payments will be excluded from the calculation of ‘disposable capital’ when applying for fee remissions.

Further information and legal support

If you would like more information on this or any other advice, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Corporate Risk and Insurance Team.

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