Thousands of people who suffer from industrial diseases are due compensation for their suffering, but dealing with so many cases can be a gargantuan task. However, one case concerning steel workers who were exposed to harmful fumes and dust at work showed that lawyers and the courts are well up to meeting the challenge.
A very large number of claims against a steel manufacturer had been made the subject of a group litigation order (GLO), with the aim of achieving justice in an efficient manner. The GLO was subject to close High Court supervision at every stage and was designed to enable swift and cost-effective resolution of issues common to numerous cases, thus greatly shortening the litigation process and maximising opportunities to settle individual claims.
The majority of the claims related to respiratory diseases, but the Court's guidance was sought as to whether those who were alleged to have contracted bladder cancer due to workplace conditions should be included in the GLO. Although only one such claim had so far been lodged, there was the potential for more.
In ruling that bladder cancer sufferers should be included in the cohort of claimants under the GLO, the Court noted the steel company's arguments that leaving them out would create a risk of a large number of such claims proliferating around the country. That could have serious adverse consequences in terms of costs and inhibit disciplined management of the litigation as a whole.