Settlements of personal injury claims involving children or persons with a disability are subject to close judicial scrutiny. That was certainly so in the case of an autistic young man whose stepfather died from asbestos-related cancer at a tragically young age.
The deceased was exposed to asbestos in the course of his employment with the Ministry of Defence (MoD). He was in his 30s when he succumbed to mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs that is almost invariably associated with asbestos.
After his family launched proceedings, the MoD swiftly admitted liability. A global settlement of his widow’s claim was agreed, the terms of which remained confidential. The High Court was concerned with the proposed apportionment of £2,862 of the settlement sum to his adult stepson.
That apportionment reflected the value of gifts that the stepson would have received from the deceased had he survived. Judicial approval was required due to concerns that the stepson, who had a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder, might lack the mental capacity to make important decisions for himself.
Approving the apportionment, the Court noted that the deceased treated his stepson as his son. The stepson was an integral part of the family and looked to the deceased as his primary male role model. Expressing deep condolences, the Court noted that the deceased was much loved and had fought bravely against his illness. It was to be hoped that settlement of the claim would provide his loved ones with some form of closure.