Asbestos claims log-jam cleared

Posted: 18th July 2014

RCJIn a ruling which it is to be hoped will speed the path to justice for grieving families of deceased asbestos victims, the High Court has taken urgent steps to break a legal log-jam that had blocked the way to prompt damages payments.

The deadly effects of asbestos inhalation commonly do not emerge until decades after exposure and, before launching proceedings, lawyers representing bereaved loved ones frequently require access to tax records going back many years in order to piece together the jigsaw of a victim’s working life.

Although that process had in the past worked smoothly, it had been held up by HM Revenue and Customs’ concerns that disclosure of deceased taxpayers’ records would violate its confidentiality obligations and amount to an unlawful breach of its duties under the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Court noted that a legislative measure – which would put the lawfulness of such disclosures beyond doubt – was shortly to go before Parliament. As an interim measure, the Court laid down a procedure for lawyers to follow which would overcome the difficulty and enable asbestos claims to be progressed.