More than 50 retired Scunthorpe steelworkers now part of compensation claim as deadline looms

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 14 Feb 2018

More than 50 former Scunthorpe steelworkers and their families have now joined in a multi-million pound legal battle against Tata Steel UK over compensation after suffering respiratory diseases and lung cancers.

The clamour for action in the High Court comes ahead of next week’s deadline for new claims to be made.

After the High Court deadline of February 23, there will be no option for them to join the group action.

The deadline was set last October, following approval of a group litigation order presented earlier by specialist industrial disease lawyers from Hugh James, based in Cardiff, and Irwin Mitchell in London.

Lawyers are acting for former steelworkers who worked on the Appleby-Frodingham, Dawes Lane, and Normanby Park coking plants in Scunthorpe.

READ MORE: Ombudsman investigating complaints from British Steel pensioners over transfer value of investments

The action is expected to take a matter of years, given the scale of the litigation and amount of evidence to be considered.

The lawyers insist despite an important and generic admission of breach of duty, there remains a number of issues in dispute.

At the defendants’ request, and with court approval, claims for alleged bladder cancer can also potentially join the group. The separate deadline for those cases only is April 23.

Roger Maddocks, an expert industrial disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: "The approval of the group litigation order and the admission by the defendants that until an individual was provided with an appropriate respirator they were in breach of duty, were extremely important milestones and moved the victims and their families a further step closer to securing the justice they deserve concerning the exposure to harmful fumes decades ago at a number of coking plants around the UK.


The steelworks in Scunthorpe

"The workers we represent, through no fault of their own, developed serious, and in some cases fatal, respiratory illnesses and lung cancers causing them unnecessary pain and suffering when they should be enjoying their later life with their families.

"Nothing can turn back the clock but this legal action will hopefully provide them with the help, support and treatments needed to make dealing with their illness more comfortable.

"With the deadline quickly approaching, we would urge anyone else who feels they were affected by the working conditions to come forward so that they too can join the group action and ensure they do not miss out on the justice they deserve.

READ MORE: British Steel boss calls for quick Government support as he addresses national conference

"The cases will vary in value. Settlements will be modest for some and significant for those whose lives have been transformed as a result of serious, life-changing respiratory disease."

The illnesses are alleged to have been caused by exposure to harmful fumes while working at coking plants in the immediate vicinity of the coke ovens.

Insurers for Tata Steel have already admitted it was in breach of its duty owed to its employees from 1947 until appropriate respiratory protection was provided to the workforce.

The application for a group litigation order alleging employers failed to protect employees from occupational exposure to dust and fumes was approved by the president of the High Court in January 2017.

The order enables a group of cases to be considered on the basis of a selection of test cases. The judgments then act as a guide in the resolution of other cases within the group.

It will provide efficient management of litigation by the appointed High Court Judge Mr Justice Turner, and avoid satellite litigation in multiple courts across the country.

All potential claims will be assessed and those whose claims are considered to have merit would then join the group register of claimants to form a single, collective court case.



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