Case Two

Richard Hopgood and Amanda-Jane Shackleton were instructed by this Claimant who was suffering from asbestos related pleural thickening the Claimant’s former husband, worked as a boilermaker at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth and was exposed to vast quantities of asbestos. The Claimant regularly washed her husband’s overalls between 1965 and 1974 and inhaled harmful quantities of asbestos fibres.

A letter before action was sent to the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Defence subsequently admitted liability. The client authorised us to make an early offer to settle on a provisional basis to the Defendant as liability had been admitted. The Ministry of Defence denied the Claimant’s right to obtain a Provisional Damages settlement and continued to argue that this was not a case where Provisional Damages were appropriate.

By its Defence, the Ministry of Defence admitted negligence but contended that the claim was statute barred. We urged the Ministry of Defence not to take the limitation point. The Ministry of Defence lost on every point in the Limitation Trial. The Judge at the Limitation Trial, Mr Recorder Lennard, stated in his Judgment the inference the Defendant was seeking to rely on was “simply not credible”.

After the Limitation Trial the Defendant would not make any further offers to settle for nearly five months. The Defendant stated in correspondence that they were “bemused” by our valuation of the Claimant’s claim.

The Defendant made further offers all for substantially beneath what our client may expect to recover at an Assessment Hearing. An Assessment of Damages Trial was listed. Three working days prior to the Assessment of Damages Trial, the Defendant erroneously sought to accept the Claimant’s early offer. We pointed out to the Defendant that they were unable to accept the Claimant’s offer without the permission of the Court. We urged the Defendant to make the necessary application as soon as possible. They did not do so. The Defendant chose to have the matter dealt with on the day of the Assessment of Damages Hearing.

At the Assessment of Damages Hearing, the Claimant should have seen her matter resolved and an award made in respect of the quantum of her claim. Instead, the Ministry of Defence wrongly sought to accept an offer which was made some years earlier, since which time the Trial had started. Subsequently, due to the Defendant’s conduct the Assessment of Damages hearing was not able to be dealt with on the listed date. At the listed Assessment of Damages Trial District Judge Ackroyd decided the matter in favour of the Claimant and held that the Trial had started and the Defendant required the Court’s permission to accept our client’s offer.

The Ministry of Defence appealed District Judge Ackroyd’s decision. The Ministry of Defence’s Appeal was dismissed by His Honour Judge Ian Hughes QC and the matter was subsequently listed for a further Assessment of Damages hearing.

Following the Appeal Judgment in our client’s favour, the Claimant made a Part 36 Offer to settle her claim on a Provisional Damages basis for £25,000. The Ministry of Defence did not respond the Claimant’s offer and instead opted to have the matter dealt with at an Assessment of Damages hearing.

At the Assessment of Damages hearing, the Claimant was awarded £25,000 for General Damages on a Provisional basis. The Claimant was awarded an additional £3,340 for her “lost years” claim due to right sided pleural thickening. Therefore Judgment was entered for £31,174.

In addition the Ministry of Defence was to pay the Claimant normal interest of £1,228 and Part 36 interest of £5,018.

The total amount the Claimant received was £37,420. The Ministry of Defence was also ordered to pay indemnity costs and interest.