Lawford Kidd's Blog

Lawford Kidd's injury solicitors' blog designed to cover all areas of the law relating to accident compensation claims, injury claims and no win no fee in Scotland.

Supreme Court rules in mesothelioma liability case

The Supreme Court has given its decision in the appeal by insurance companies over their obligations under various contracts of employers’ liability (“EL”) insurance. In particular, the appeals concern the scope of the insurers’ obligations to indemnify employers against their liabilities towards employees who have contracted mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma has an unusually long gestation period, which can be in excess of 40 years between exposure to asbestos and manifestation of the disease. The insurers maintain that the EL policies only cover mesothelioma which manifested as a disease at some point during the relevant policy period. In contrast, the employers submit that the insurance policies respond to mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos during the relevant policy period but which develops and manifests itself sometime later.

The court at first instance held that the policies should all be interpreted as having a “causation wording,” and therefore the liability “trigger” under the EL policy was when the employee inhaled the asbestos and not the date when the malignant lesion developed.

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Experts call for landowners to take more responsibility

Health and safety experts have called on landowners to take more care and responsibility when looking after trees on their land.

In light of recent fatalities and injuries sustained from falling trees and branches, members of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) are reminding landowners and managers of the potential risks that failing to look after trees on their land can pose to public safety.

Alan Plom, from the IOSH Rural Industries Group, said: “Every year across the UK members of the public are injured, or even worse killed when a tree falls on them.

“Landowners and managers need to step up to the mark and be aware of the risks that unsafe trees on their land pose to the general public – they could  be seriously hurt should a tree fall.”

There have been some high-profile incidents and widely reported civil cases relating to poor tree safety and management. Liability concerns amongst landowners have led to a defensive approach and often unnecessary felling of trees.

Mr Plom added: “Tree safety isn’t a laughing matter, it’s a must. Landowners need to balance the risks and benefits that having trees on their land can bring, and adopt a sensible, proportionate approach to tree safety.

“When assessing whether trees are safe it’s important that risks are considered without adopting an overly defensive approach that can have a harmful effect on tree stocks or individual trees.”

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Demolition firm sentenced over asbestos danger

A demolition firm has been sentenced after knocking down a building in the Lake District containing hundreds of asbestos ceiling tiles, putting the lives of workers and local residents at risk.

IBT Contracting Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after carrying out the work at a former photography factory, despite not having a licence to remove asbestos.

Kendal Magistrates' Court heard IBT had been given a survey by the owners of the site ahead of the work taking place, which stated that the building contained 166 square metres of asbestos ceiling tiles.

But the company failed to arrange for a licensed contractor to remove the tiles safely, and instead released deadly asbestos fibres into the air during the building's demolition.

IBT Contracting pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, for removing asbestos without a licence, exposing workers to asbestos fibres, and allowing the fibres to spread to neighbouring areas.

The company was fined £10,800 and ordered to pay £3,638.95 in prosecution costs. 

Asbestos was used in ceiling tiles up until the 1980s to help insulate buildings. The tiles only become dangerous if they are broken up and asbestos fibres are released into the air.

Fibres that are breathed in can become lodged in the lungs or digestive tract, and may lead to lung cancer or other diseases if large numbers of fibres are inhaled. However, symptoms may not appear for several decades.

Around 4,000 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK.

Find out more about claims for asbestos exposure here.

 

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Window and door manufacturer fined after worker killed

A firm specialising in the manufacture of wooden doors and windows has been fined for safety failings after a worker died at its Leyton premises.

Andrzej Rokita had been with M M Contracting Ltd for only ten days when he attempted to help his son, also an employee, to remove a large board from the middle of a pile stacked upright against a wall in the workshop.

The company's usual system for doing this was for one employee to stand in front of the stack, taking the weight of the unwanted boards on his hands, while a fellow worker pulled out the chosen one from the side. Unfortunately as Mr Rokita tried to support the weight of the leaning wooden panels they toppled over, crushing him and causing fatal head injuries.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and found that the company did not have a safe system of work for the storage or retrieval of boards. Storing the boards flat on the floor or using a simple purpose-built racking system would have greatly reduced the risk of injury.

After today's sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court, HSE inspector Kevin Smith said:

"This was a death waiting to happen. Incidents such as this are still a common occurrence in the industry despite the existence of guidance from the HSE offering simple, inexpensive solutions for stacking wood safely.

"As a direct result of the company's failure to provide safe storage for their everyday materials, a father and husband has lost his life. There is no excuse for employers not ensuring that wood on their premises is properly stored, posing the most minimal risk to their staff."

The company pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £26,000 and ordered to pay £9,000 in costs.

 

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Irish Injuries Board annual review 2011

InjuriesBoard.ie has published its review of 2011, which shows that compensation totalling €210 million was awarded in 2011 in respect of 9,833 personal injury claims. The average award in the period was €21,339. During the year the Board made an award of €829,444, its highest to date.

Award values via the Injuries Board remained consistent with awards through the Courts. The average award in 2011 was €21,339, down 3.8% on 2010. This reduction is largely due to a reduction in the proportion of work related claims – typically of higher value – and reduced loss of earnings, given lower salaries across the economy.

The total value of awards in the period increased by 23% but this was largely driven by an increase in the number of awards assessed in the period. Underlying claims volumes remained stable, increasing by 3% in the period and suggesting that the often mooted increase in claims during recessionary times has not occurred.

Over three quarters of awards (76.5%) were for injuries from road traffic accidents, while the remainder were split between workplace (8.4%) and public place (15.1%) accidents.

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