Partner urges Wirral council to settle asbestos damages claims

THE SOLICITOR co-ordinating a multi-million pound claim for damages from asbestos fall-out has urged the council defending the case to settle out of court.

Graham Ross, senior partner with the Liverpool-based Ross Park Partnership, says the deal would save Wirral Borough Council ratepayers' money.

The action by approximately 400 residents relates to fall-out which followed a fire at a

disused tannery in Birkenhead last year.

Some residents already claim to have suffered inflammation of the eyes, nose and throat, and two weeks ago, the Legal Aid Board agreed to back the claim.

Ross, who is gathering evidence on behalf of Liverpool solicitors' Abenson & Co, which is handling individual claims, says as well as the tannery owner British Leather, the council was liable for failing to notify residents quickly.

He adds: “I would urge councillors and officers alike to consider an early settlement whereby they agree not to dispute liability for those who can be shown in the future to suffer from this incident.

“In this way they will release precious funds to put to better use in the future protection of the public.”

Ross claims Wirral was aware of the potential danger of asbestos, but did not warn the public until 14 hours after the blaze was started by arsonists last September.

“The risk to public health was ignored during vital hours following the fire, as a result of which many people, particularly children, engaged in dangerous practices, such as picking up lumps of asbestos and sweeping up the dust.”

Ross, whose previous high-profile group actions include Prozac, cot death syndrome, and whooping cough vaccine, says the asbestos claim will be the first of its kind.

Both defendants still plan to oppose the claim.

A Wirral spokesman comments: “The council acted as quickly and as thoroughly as possible to identify and deal with any problems arising from the fire.”

Cyril Dixon