The use of asbestos dates back to 4000BC when it was used in candles and lamp wicks. The shrouds of Egyptian mummies contained asbestos and it is thought that this is why they are still intact so many years on. The Romans used asbestos napkins and would throw them into fires to cleanse and purify them.
In the late 19th Century asbestos was thought to be a wonder product, resistant to chemicals, insoluble and flame retardant. It was these amazing properties that made asbestos products one of the most popular materials in construction and insulation, with companies setting up to produce asbestos and ship their products all over the world.
The Greeks and Romans are thought to have made a connection between asbestos and health problems as slaves working on weaving asbestos cloth were seen to suffer with ‘sickness of the lungs’. However, the earliest confirmed reports of asbestos related illness were made in Britain in 1898 when it was stated that asbestos “easily demonstrated” health risks.
In 1924, Nellie Kershaw, an employee of Turner Brothers Asbestos died. Investigations into her death led to the publication of the first Asbestos Industry Regulations in 1931, coming into effect on 1st March 1932. These regulations required an exhaust draught to be fitted to prevent asbestos dust from being released into the air in rooms where asbestos was used.
Despite medical evidence showing health issues connected to asbestos, it was not until the 1970s that asbestos companies began to acknowledge the link between their products and health problems. Since this time, asbestos companies and employers who exposed their employees to asbestos have had hundreds of thousands of claims for compensation made against them. Due to the large number of claims made, many companies have gone out of business.
In the United States (US) many asbestos companies have branched out into other areas and claims relating to the old asbestos part of the company threaten to ruin the new branches. In order to protect the companies and allow asbestos victims some recompense for their illnesses, companies in the US have formed asbestos bankruptcy trusts.
In cases where a bankruptcy trust has been formed, Claimants in the UK can make claims against the trusts, rather than the company itself, following a diagnosis of mesothelioma. Claims can be made whether the Claimant worked for the company directly or worked with products that the company produced.
A number of trusts have been set up and the amount held in each varies depending on the size of the company, what products were made and how many people are estimated to make claims.
The procedure for making a claim against a trust differs depending on the trust, however all Claimants are required to provide medical evidence supporting their diagnosis of mesothelioma together with evidence of their exposure to products manufactured by the company.
Claims for mesothelioma can be made against more than one trust, provided there is evidence of exposure to the products. As each trust’s procedure for claiming differs, many Claimants opt to use a solicitor to assist in the claim. Specialist solicitors are familiar with the process and will often have already acted for someone working at the same site with the same products.
Although the trusts have been set up in the US by American asbestos companies, people suffering with mesothelioma in the UK and Australia can make claims, provided they have evidence of exposure to the US asbestos products.
QualitySolicitors Oliver & Co have teamed up with The David Law Firm, a law firm with offices in the US, Australia and the UK, to investigate the possibility of further mesothelioma claims from the US trusts, in addition to the civil claims against their employers.
QualitySolicitors Oliver & Co and The David Law Firm aim to make the claims process against the US trusts as easy as possible. Using medical information and witness statements already obtained in relation to the civil claims, The David Law Firm are able to assess whether a successful US trust claim can be made. It is then simply a matter of submitting the evidence to the relevant trust and waiting for any offers of settlement to be made.
The David Law Firm are also working on product identification which involves conducting interviews with clients and co-workers to ascertain which British companies and sites used American asbestos products. They are continually adding to a database of asbestos knowledge in order to assist in future claims against the trusts, this will be particularly helpful in cases where clients cannot recall specific products or in secondary exposure cases.
As the claims are made in the US, funding is different to the ‘no win, no fee’ Conditional Fee Agreement used in the UK. Instead a Contingency Fee Agreement is used. Claimants do not have to pay any fees upfront but if a claim is successful, a percentage is taken out of the damages in payment for the solicitors’ fees. The amount deducted depends on the trust the payment is from.
If you would like any further information about the US trusts please do not hesitate to contact us 0800 058 2737.