Posted by Helen Childs, Partner
Royds Withy King agree Periodical Payments Order for immunotherapy treatment in mesothelioma claim
Mesothelioma is an aggressive asbestos-related cancer. The condition is known as the ‘Swindon disease’ as has disproportionately affected the town given its industrial heritage, in particular, the use of asbestos at the railway works. Around 2,500 people are diagnosed with …
Mesothelioma is an aggressive asbestos-related cancer. The condition is known as the ‘Swindon disease’ as has disproportionately affected the town given its industrial heritage, in particular, the use of asbestos at the railway works. Around 2,500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK every year, the incidence of mesothelioma continues to rise. It reflects exposure to asbestos, often in an industrial setting, decades before.
In recent years there have been real advances in the treatment of mesothelioma with immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune response to target a tumour. In clinical trials immunotherapy showed very positive results with many individuals experiencing a greatly increased life expectancy with their quality of life being maintained.
At the moment immunotherapy is not licensed for use by the NHS, although it has been licensed for use in America and private healthcare companies are beginning to recognise the benefits for mesothelioma patients.
When individuals have been diagnosed with mesothelioma they may not realise that immunotherapy treatment is a possibility. Knowledge of its availability and efficacy is still developing in many hospitals.
Those making a claim for compensation for mesothelioma have also been able to claim the cost of private immunotherapy treatment. However, until this year they had to make a decision about the timing of the settlement vis a vis their immunotherapy which could mean that they would be undercompensated potentially leaving them high and dry and wishing to undergo further immunotherapy treatment which they would have had to fund themselves.
However, specialist mesothelioma solicitors like Royds Withy King are now successfully arguing that future immunotherapy treatment should be funded under a Periodical Payments Order which means that the defendants are liable to pay for whatever immunotherapy treatment is recommended as necessary without the claimant running the risk of being undercompensated or the defendants running the risk of overcompensating them.
On 20 April Royds Withy King agreed a settlement in a mesothelioma claim for Mr S, a man who developed mesothelioma years after he was exposed to asbestos during the course of his service with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) is a civilian-manned fleet owned by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, whose purpose is to deliver worldwide logistical and operational support for the wide range of tasks the Royal Navy undertakes including warfighting, counter-piracy, humanitarian and disaster relief, and counter-narcotics operations. Its primary role is to supply the Royal Navy with fuel, ammunition and supplies, normally by replenishment at sea (RAS).
Mr S had joined the Royal Fleet Auxiliary as a cadet in the 1970s and had worked with them for many years until he retired some 40 years later. He had seen active service and had even served on the RFA Sir Galahad when it was sunk during the Falklands War. By the time he retired Mr S was a widower and until he became unwell with mesothelioma he was enjoying an active retirement working as a volunteer and enjoying going for long walks with his dog.
He began to experience slight breathlessness and was then diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2016. Fortunately, he remained well for an extended period of time and is still relatively fit and active. However, his future is uncertain.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive condition for which there is no cure, although chemotherapy can help to extend people’s lives and immunotherapy can sometimes achieve very dramatic results.
As a widower, Mr S needed to settle his claim personally or he would have lost any compensation for his loss of income during the period by which his life is likely to be shortened by the mesothelioma. However, he also wished to undergo immunotherapy treatment when the time came. Quite understandably he does not wish to have medical treatment like chemotherapy or immunotherapy until his condition has progressed.
At the time when he commenced his claim he had to make the very difficult decision whether to press ahead with his claim for compensation and settle it personally, including a proportion of the likely cost of immunotherapy treatment, or wait and see how the immunotherapy treatment went so that a better assessment of the likely overall cost of immunotherapy could be reached, but then risk being unable to conclude the rest of his claim personally.
However, Helen Childs, Partner at Royds Withy King Solicitors and accredited asbestos disease specialist by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), applied for a Periodical Payments Order in relation to immunotherapy treatment. The rest of his claim was settled amicably in February 2018 for in excess of £500,000.00, but in April 2018, just before trial, it was agreed with the defendants that as and when immunotherapy treatment is appropriate, they will fund the cost of it. They will continue to fund it for as long as Mr S’s treating physician recommends it. This removes the lottery that the claimant and defendants previously faced when settling claims for immunotherapy treatment because until periodical payments were used to settle these claims, it was inevitable that the claimant would either be undercompensated or the defendants would have overcompensated them.
“I am very pleased that we have been able to secure proper compensation for Mr S to reflect the losses he has incurred as a result of his diagnosis with mesothelioma and also to ensure that he will receive appropriate immunotherapy treatment as and when the time comes. Obviously, nothing can compensate for developing mesothelioma. However, Mr S can now put the claim behind him and get on with enjoying what will hopefully be a very long and active retirement and be able to receive as much immunotherapy treatment as his treating physicians recommend in time. Immunotherapy treatment is a very fast developing area of medicine, particularly for those with mesothelioma. At the moment the only way for most people to ensure that they receive immunotherapy treatment is by funding it privately, often through a compensation claim. Anyone who has any queries about a diagnosis of mesothelioma or about immunotherapy treatment should seek advice from a specialist mesothelioma solicitor”.
Jennifer Seavor, Senior Associate at the firm based on Regents Circus is currently acting for several people from Swindon diagnosed with mesothelioma. Jennifer said:
“The order in this case gives further hope to mesothelioma sufferers. Immunotherapy is showing great promise, extending the life expectancy of those who are candidates for the treatment. Our team has been instructed by several clients from Swindon in the last few months. The order will help us argue that all the associated costs of the treatment are covered for those who will benefit from it.”
Anyone affected by mesothelioma, lung cancer or other asbestos diseases who would like advice can contact Jennifer Seavor on 01793 847 707 or attend the drop in clinic on Thursdays at the Royds Withy King office at Regents Circus. No appointment necessary.
Royds Withy King who also sponsor the Swindon and Wiltshire Asbestos Support Group is holding a ceremony including a dove release on Action Mesothelioma Day on Friday 6 July from 11 am at the Mesothelioma Memorial Garden in Queens Park.
If you want to speak with our specialist mesothelioma team about a potential claim, please contact them today.
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