Sunday Life

Compo claim shipyard man in Lords move

By Joe Oliver
30 January 2005

A former shipyard worker is to petition the House of Lords after Appeal Court judges stripped him of a compensation pay-out in a landmark asbestos case.

Lawyers representing James Maguire are already preparing papers to seek an appeal hearing, which could have widespread implications in Northern Ireland.

Mr Maguire, who worked at Harland and Wolff's Liverpool base during the 1960s, didn't suffer any ill-effects himself from asbestos exposure.

But his wife, Teresa, was diagnosed with mesothelioma - an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs - after being exposed to asbestos dust while washing her husband's work clothes.

Teresa died, aged 67, last May, shortly after a High Court hearing in Manchester ruled she was entitled to £82,000 in damages.

But, by a majority of two-to-one, the Appeal Court ruled last week that it was "not reasonably foreseeable between 1960 and 1965" that a wife would be at risk of personal injury.

Mr Maguire's solicitor, Paul Glenville, of Oldham-based firm John Pickering and Partners, said the reversal of the damages award against Harland and Wolff was "devastating".

He added: "We were refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords, so our next step is to petition for a hearing.

"The paperwork will be complete within the next few weeks and I believe we will succeed because the Appeal Court was split.

"As it stands at the moment, all secondary exposure cases before 1965 are unlikely to succeed."

Belfast solicitor Martin Hanna, who specialises in asbestos cases, said the Appeal Court decision was "potentially catastrophic".

He said: "In the course of the next 20 years, the vast majority diagnosed with this condition [mesothelioma] will be secondary exposure.

"I've had three cases this week, two of them from secondary exposure, so it is going to affect a lot of people.

"Civil actions are the only route for these people and the most unjust aspect of the asbestos scandal is that there was no Government scheme to compensate them because they were not actually employed by anybody."


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