Most people who develop an asbestos disease in the UK can point to exposure in employment and can bring a claim against their UK employer. Sometimes the patient develops mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure brought home on the clothes of their parents or siblings. Sometimes the dust is blown in from neighbouring factories. In any of these cases patients in the UK can normally bring a claim in Scotland or in Northern Ireland or in the jurisdiction of England and Wales, depending where the exposure occurred.
If a patient was exposed to asbestos outside the UK then they may have other options.
A South African mining engineer who was exposed to asbestos only when working in an asbestos mine in South Africa was able to bring a claim in London against the English parent company, for instance. A British employee of a British company but working overseas for that company would probably be able to bring a claim in England Scotland or Northern Ireland.
But in some cases it may be possible and desirable to make a claim overseas instead of or as well as making a claim through the British Courts.
Mr D was employed by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) as a ship’s engineer for over 30 years. He was exposed to asbestos throughout this period. Although the RFA provided support to Royal Navy ships, employees of RFA are civilians and can bring claims where MOD service personnel cannot. Lawyers on the HASAG panel were able to get a substantial payment for Mrs D by bringing a claim in England.
But when he was employed by the RFA his ships would often put into port in US Naval Shipyards where US asbestos materials and products were applied. This meant firstly that he was able to bring a claim against the US providers of these materials and products and secondly that he could do so in the US court system. The US claim is ongoing but is expected to be worth substantially more than $1 million dollars.
For many years Mr G was a ship’s engineer in the British merchant navy. In this employment he sustained asbestos exposure. Claims against the shipping lines were once commonplace and lawyers on the HASAG panel were able to obtain substantial compensation for Mr G, a widower, in his lifetime.
But Mr G had been exposed to asbestos materials and product in US ports, like Mr D. In addition he had spent some years working in the USA on the construction of power stations. As a result his children were able to bring further claims, in the USA, in connection with his exposure in US ports when employed by British shipping lines and in connection with this employment in the USA. His HASAG panel lawyers introduced Mr G to US attorneys who arranged for Mr G to give evidence by way of “deposition” in England so that his children would be able to pursue the US claims. They have so far recovered about $2 million dollars with more to come.
There are some mesothelioma patients who used talc products from US manufacturers. Some talc products from the USA are thought to have contained asbestos and some of these patients are now making claims in the USA. The prospects of success depend upon the details of each case. For instance, some talc distributed by US firms in the UK came from asbestos-free Italian mines and so would not have caused mesothelioma.
Wherever there is exposure in the USA, or exposure to asbestos-containing products or asbestos materials from the USA or from a US company, then it may be possible to make a claim to one of the many US Asbestos Trusts or through the US court system. These claims can be very high value but are far from straightforward. Expert advice from specialist mesothelioma lawyer is always needed.