A NETHER Langwith woman’s hard-fought legal battle in memory of her father who died from exposure to asbestos has ended in victory after a landmark Supreme Court ruling.
Ruth Durham said she was ‘greatly relieved’ to hear last Wednesday’s verdict, which could lead to thousands of insurance claims by families of people who have died from the cancer mesothelioma.
Her father, Leslie Screach, was exposed to deadly asbestos fibres between 1963 and 1968 while working as a paint sprayer in west London and died from lung disease nine years ago.
Mrs Durham has battled for years to see justice done for her father and other mesothelioma sufferers, and has been the lead case throughout the legal process.
“I was overjoyed that the right decision was handed down. It has been a long hard fought battle.” she said.
“This case was never about the money, it was about making sure people who have suffered this disease are acknowledged.
“There were moments were I felt like giving up, but I wanted to see this through because of my dad.
“Nothing will ever bring my dad back, but hopefully this case will now help many others. My dad knew he would not live to see the end of this case, but he wanted to do what he could to help other people.
“I hope my dad will be proud of me for reaching a succesful conclusion, we did not dream it would take nine years to get there.
“I really miss my dad, we were best friends. This case now allows me to bring closure to his death.
“There were always open wounds as long as the case went on and brought up bad memories, I can now start to remember the happy times and not sad times. This feels like a massive weight lifted off my shoulders
“I would like to thank Helen Ashton (Mrs Durham’s lawyer) and her team for their relentless hardwork.
“The money was supposed to be for my mum, but she has since died which is very sad. I can take comfort in the fact that many other people across the country will benefit from this landmark ruling.”
The court ruling means insurance liability will be triggered at the time an employee was exposed to asbestos, not when symptoms appeared. A lawyer representing Mrs Durham says the court’s decision will now bring ‘clarity, consistency and comfort’ to the families of thousands of mesothelioma victims.
Helen Ashton, from Irwin Mitchell, says the decision overturns a previous ‘split judgment’ ruling which left many unable to obtain justice and financial security for their families despite their loved ones becoming ill because of exposure to asbestos in the workplace.
“As well as the people currently directly affected by asbestos-related disease, this judgment means that the thousands of people who are yet to be given the devastating news they have the deadly illness will at least know that their families can get access to justice and receive the financial security they need,” she said.
“But the sad fact is that many victims of mesothelioma who have been awaiting the outcome of this appeal may not have lived long enough to know if their families will now receive the compensation they deserve.”
Asbestos-related disease is the biggest killer in the workplace in Britain, causing more than 5,000 deaths every year, according to Ms Ashton.
The number of people affected by mesothelioma is still rising and because of the time it can take for this illness to develop it is not expected to peak until around 2015.