More than 36 families in Clitheroe who intended to take Castle Cement to court alleging chest complaints and other ailments could face a legal bill of up to UK£2500 each. The hefty bill follows an incident approximately two years ago when representatives from a firm of solicitors knocked on doors in the town targeting asthma sufferers. The representatives led people to believe that their asthma could be due to output from the chimneys at Ribblesdale Works and even employees of Castle Cement were targeted. The claimants were told that in the event of success in court, the interest would be covered, along with damages, by the insurance that they had taken out. They were persuaded to sign a credit agreement with a finance company to pay for legal insurance at a cost of UK£1800 if they lost the case. Every policyholder was repeatedly assured that they would not have to pay anything, even if they did not win the case.
The solicitors, Sentley Bowen Wilson, are currently being investigated by the Law Society and the claimants have now received letters demanding UK£2500 for the repayment of the loan. The initial loans were for UK£1800, but with interest, the claimants now owe UK£2500. At the time, Castle Cement’s then general manager, Mr Ian Sutheran, stated that the claims were "untrue" and would be "vigorously contested" by the company.
One of those who signed up for the claim, single parent Mrs Jean Smith, said that she was amazed. My daughter suffers with asthma and when I signed the insurance policy I was assured that it was on a no win, no fee basis and that it wouldnt cost me a thing. Two years later, I am faced with the bill and there is no way I can afford to pay it back.
Earlier this week, Mr Geoffrey Negus, spokesman for the Law Society, confirmed Sentley Bowen Wilson had closed down. He said: The Law Society closed the firm down on September 30th, because it had serious reservations about the way the firm was being run.