Scottish pleural plaques decision little comfort to UK’s other victims

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Scottish pleural plaques decision little comfort to UK’s other victims

14th October 2011

An expert in industrial disease cases has said that while the decision not to stop people in Scotland claiming compensation for the asbestos-related condition pleural plaques should be welcomed, it has also underlined the massive difference in treatment of victims across the UK.

Bridget Collier, head of the Industrial Diseases department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, was speaking after the UK Supreme Court dismissed a case brought by insurance companies to prevent people with pleural plaques in Scotland from claiming compensation.

“It was more than 18 months ago that the Government refused to overturn the ruling which has prevented pleural plaque sufferers in England and Wales from claiming damages,” said Bridget, a partner with the firm. “Instead, they opted to award a one-off payment to sufferers of pleural plaques – but even that scheme was closed in August this year.”

The Scottish government disagreed with the controversial House of Lords ruling five years ago that victims could not claim compensation, and in 2009 MSPs passed the Damages Act allowing claims to be made, arguing that pleural plaques could give rise to more serious conditions such as lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis – the very same arguments previously dismissed by politicians at Westminster.

A number of insurance companies launched a court battle to overturn the ruling, arguing that it broke European Convention on Human Rights provisions on property rights and constituted unreasonable legal interference. But the Scottish government successfully defended its position.

“I’m pleased that the insurance firms who sought to overturn this legislation have failed, enabling thousands of Scottish people who are forced to suffer the consequences of working with asbestos to be compensated,” said Bridget. “But the ruling also serves to emphasise the gulf in differences in jurisdiction. How can it be fair for people in Scotland to be able to make a claim, but not in England or Wales?” she said.

“The decision last year to make a one-off payment of £5,000 was roundly welcomed, but the one-off payment will be of no consolation to the thousands who have been denied the right to claim compensation to which they should be entitled, and who now face an uncertain future,” said Bridget, a senior litigator with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and co-ordinator for APIL’s northwest region.

“And of course, now that the closing date for applying to the compensation scheme has passed, anyone else in England and Wales who is diagnosed has no recourse.

“It is a disgrace that these people have been denied the right to compensation,” she said. “They have been treated with contempt.”

Read more at: BBC news