The government does not have the stomach to deal with mesothelioma as it does with other claims.
Before I come onto my point, let me start by saying this: Justin Bieber, free porn, Lady Gaga, Breaking Bad alternative endings and David Cameron with his underpants on his head.
Right, that’s the clickbait sorted – now to talk about mesothelioma.
It’s a sad fact that meso just doesn’t capture readers’ attention in the same way as, say, costs. Most of my meso blogs don’t trouble the ‘most read’ lists and are often overshadowed by higher-profile issues.
Which is a shame, because not only is it possibly the most heartbreaking type of personal injury you can find, it’s also pretty interesting from a costs perspective too.
Around 2,200 people die from meso in the UK each year, each with a life expectancy of less than nine months from diagnosis.
To put that into context, that’s more than three London Underground trains-full of people who struggle to make the length of a football season.
Back in the spring of 2012, the government didn’t know what to do about meso in terms of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act.
Despite constant assertions that clients needed ‘skin in the game’ (what a charming phrase by the way, for someone who has suffered a catastrophic injury) and costs were too high, for some reason the rules were different for meso.
In May 2012, then justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said LASPO would not apply to meso claims until a ‘review has been undertaken’.
That anomaly is now rectified. The government, with an alarming but unsurprising lack of interest from our national media, has announced the time is right for LASPO to apply to meso. Perhaps 2013 victims need to commit more skin to the game than their 2012 counterparts.
The confirmation came yesterday on the back of yet another of the government’s famous U-turns/changes of heart following consultations.
While ministers gave to insurers with one hand, they took with another, shelving plans for a fixed-fee protocol for meso claims. This was the scheme that, according to the MoJ in August, would be ‘good for victims and good for families at a time of great stress’.
Maybe what’s good for victims is no longer a priority, because by this week ministers decided there is ‘not a strong enough case that they will meet the government’s declared aim of ensuring that mesothelioma compensation claims are settled quickly - where necessary - and fairly’. Does this not beg the question whether this weakens the case for shoehorning £25,000 cases into a fixed-costs scheme?
For perhaps the first time, the government has succeeded in uniting insurers and claimants: they’re all annoyed by this latest development.
Defendant firm Kennedys said it was ‘disappointing’ that fixed fees were dropped, despite welcoming bringing meso claims into the LASPO family.
APIL ‘voiced concern’ about the LASPO issued but was pleased at the binning of fixed fees.
It seems the government cannot decide what to do about mesothelioma. It can’t deploy the ‘ambulance-chaser’ rhetoric here – these are formerly hard workers ending their lives in tragic circumstances. Ministers instinctively want to treat meso claims the same as any other PI case, but seemingly don’t have the stomach for it.
It’s compromise over conviction. If fixed fees and LASPO are the Right Thing To Do, they should really apply to all types of injury otherwise you undermine the whole point of them in the first place.
John Hyde is a Gazette reporter