The government has confirmed that it will rush through legislation to help cancer sufferers get full compensation from a negligent employer even if it cannot be proved that the employer was solely responsible for their condition.
Last week. prime minister Tony Blair announced that the government would introduce a new law to overturn the recent decision of the House of Lords on the amount of compensation payable to victims of the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
Families of workers who contracted cancer after working with asbestos vowed to fight for a change in the law after the House of Lords ruled in May that employer liability for compensation should be restricted.
The Lords upheld three test appeals in which it was argued that damages awarded should be limited in cases where the employee in question had worked for several employers, none of which could be specifically blamed for the onset of the disease. The decision could save employers millions of pounds in compensation payouts.
However, Lord Falconer, secretary of state for constitutional affairs, announced that he would bring forward an amendment to the Compensation Bill to provide that in these cases negligent employers should be jointly and severally liable, so that the claimant can recover full compensation from any relevant employer.
“It would then be open to that employer to seek a contribution to the damages awarded from other negligent employers,” he said.
The secretary for work and pensions, John Hutton, said the move would bring a better chance of compensation for thousands of people who have contracted mesothelioma because they were exposed to asbestos at work.
“The consequences of the judgment [in the House of Lords] would have made it much more difficult for sufferers and their families to get the compensation they deserve, so I am pleased to announce today that we are going to take action to make claims easier,” he said.