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Asbestos victims to split pounds 36m.

Byline: By Gayle Tomlinson

A five year compensation battle by hundreds of dying asbestos victims and their families has been won.

The long-awaited pay-outs will arrive in the next few months.

Workers at the Washington Chemical Company were exposed to deadly levels of asbestos every day during their working life.

More than 100 former employers have died while waiting for legal wranglings over the compensation which have been rumbling on for five years.

Parent company Federal Mogul went into administration in 2001, freezing all compensation payments.

But now they will finally get their money with some pay-outs worth up to pounds 100,000.

The Chronicle revealed last year how thousands of North East workers were exposed to asbestos at the factory while the owners knew the dust could kill.

Now courts are deciding how to split a pounds 36m cash pot allocated for compensation pay-outs to victims who were exposed to asbestos between 1969 and 1995.

The first cheques could be arriving on victim's doorsteps by March.

It is hoped the victims and their families will eventually receive up to 80% of their entitlement, compared to just 17% offered by bosses 18 months ago.

If the company was hadn't gone into administration, sufferers would have received 100% of their compensation.

Maureen Gunn's husband Colin, 65, of Chester-le-Street died in October this year after a fight against mesothelioma.

Colin worked at Washington Chemical Factory for two years between 1964 and 1966, making lagging for pipes.

He had been waiting for years for his case to be settled.

Colin Laidler's dad Ronald, died in 2002, aged 70, after a two-year wait for compensation. He had worked for the firm for 39 years, starting out as an apprentice plumber and when he retired he was maintenance controller.

Colin has been fighting for compensation for his mother and earlier this year travelled to Parliament to lobby support from MPs.

Ian McFall, Head of the asbestos team at Thompsons in Newcastle, who are acting on behalf of the victims, welcomed news of the pay-outs.

He said: "The courts will make their decision early next week and we expect members to vote on the settlement in early January. Then the payments will start to follow in the spring."

Former Washington Chemical Factory workers will be asked to vote on the new settlement in the New Year. They will be able to turn it down if they choose.

Negotiations are still ongoing for victims and their families who were exposed to asbestos prior to 1969.

It is hoped they will receive 24% of their compensation from a pounds 33m cash pot and that this will be resolved and paid out next year.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 26, 2005
Words:445
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