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Family of Mesothelioma Victim Awarded Damages

A recent case in the Court of Session has helped to clarify the position in relation to the amount of compensation which should be paid to the family members of mesothelioma victims for “loss of society”.

Mr George Manson was a former shipyard worker who died of epithelioid mesothelioma of the pleura, which he developed as a result of being negligently exposed to asbestos dust at work.  The court action was raised by his two sons, aged 59 and 55, and his widow, aged 79, against Mr Manson’s former employers.

The main areas of dispute between the parties related to the amount of compensation which should be paid to the family members in terms of section 4(3)(b) of the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011, in circumstances where the deceased was at an advanced age at the date of his death (81), but where the relatives in question had lived with him en famille until the date of his death and had formed with him a particularly close relationship.

The Court heard evidence from the family members that both sons had lived all their lives in the same home with their parents until their father’s death and that they formed a very close family unit.  In his evidence, the older son frequently referred to his father as “our solid rock” and said that he was someone to look up to, whose example he wished to follow and who was always there for him.  He would see him every day.  The Court heard that Mr Manson’s death had particularly affected his widow, who had depended upon him a great deal.  She had become withdrawn since his death and did not like to go out too much.

In his written judgment, Lord Clark stated, “In the present case there appears to me, to be two sets of factors which are of material importance in seeking to reach a conclusion as to what are just awards in the circumstances.  The first set of circumstances relate to the extremely close and long enduring relationship among all of the pursuers and the deceased and how that relationship operated in practice among them.  The second set of factors, on the other hand, relates to (a) the advanced age of the deceased at his death, (b) his relatively short life expectancy at the date of his death, having regard to his health, absent the fatal condition and (c) the ages of the pursuers themselves.”

The judge ultimately awarded the sum of £75,000 to the widow and £30,000 to each of the sons in relation to loss of society.  He also awarded £9,000 to the widow in respect of loss of services under section 9 of the 2011 Act.  Prior to the proof, it had been agreed between the parties that the sons, as executors of Mr Manson, would be awarded the sum of £90,000 in respect of solatium and past services on his behalf and that the widow would receive the sum of £89,480.31 for loss of financial support and £3,698.69 for expenses incurred in connection with Mr Manson’s funeral.

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