16 February 2018 | Comment | Article by June Parry
Hugh James, along with Irwin Mitchell, has been appointed as lead solicitors in the group litigation order (GLO) on behalf of former workers, and the families of former workers, of coking plants previously operated by British Steel. A GLO is a court order that permits a number of claims with common issues to be managed together. This group action comes after hundreds of former British Steel workers developed respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, temporary exacerbation of asthma and lung cancer, as well as squamous cell skin cancer and bladder cancer. It is alleged that these conditions were caused by exposure to harmful fumes when working at British Steel’s coking plants.
In October 2017, the court set a deadline to join the group litigation of 23 February 2018. With that date fast approaching, those who think that they have a claim, or believe that they may be able to bring a claim on behalf of a relative who has since died, are urged to contact Hugh James on 0808 302 3861 in advance of the deadline. There is no obligation to pursue the claim. After the deadline has passed, people will not be able to bring a claim as part of the group action and bringing a claim at all will be difficult, if not impossible.
At the defendants’ request, and with court approval, claims for alleged bladder cancer can also potentially join the group. The separate deadline for bladder cancer cases only is 23 April 2018.
So, before joining the GLO, what are the important things to know?
- A GLO allows the court to manage and group together a number of individual claims which give rise to common or related issues of fact or law.
- The claimant group is represented by a team of specialist lawyers at Hugh James with over 25 years’ experience in group litigation and industrial disease claims.
- A GLO enables a group of cases to be considered on the basis of a selection of test cases, the judgment in which then acts as a guide in the resolution of the other cases within the group. The claimants and the defendants will each choose test cases from the group.
- Claiming as part of a group helps to level the playing field against a defendant such as Tata Steel. Group litigation makes complex investigations into liability proportionate to the outcome.
- Any case may be chosen by the defendant as a test case. Therefore, only claims with realistic prospects of success are included in the group. Each claimant’s employment and medical records are obtained and every claim is risk assessed before being entered on the group register.
- Although British Steel has admitted that it was in breach of the duty it owed to its coke oven employees until adequate respiratory protection was provided, a number of other significant issues remain in dispute. For example, a claimant must show that the coke oven worker was exposed to dust and fumes during their employment with the defendants and that it was this exposure which caused, or materially contributed to the development of the disease, or diseases, for which that claimant seeks damages.
- Claims may be brought on behalf of the estates of deceased former British Steel coke oven workers. Claims will be brought by the executor of the worker’s estate where a worker has left a will, or a person’s next of kin.
- Experts’ reports, disclosure evidence and witness evidence in the generic case will assist in the resolution of other claims in the group.
- A GLO can be a lengthy process. The trial date is set by the court and is likely to be in a few years rather than months. The litigation is large scale, with hundreds of claimants and a huge amount of evidence to consider. However, a timetable for each stage of the litigation will be set by the court so that claimants can be reassured as to timescales.
- All potential claims must be notified to the defendants by 23 February 2018, save for bladder cancer claims which must be notified to the defendants by 23 April 2018.
We urge anyone who thinks that they may have a claim to contact us immediately in light of the deadline of 23 February 2018.