The Scottish Executive has officially acknowledged the part Thompsons Solicitors and our friends in the Asbestos action groups played in the decision to speed up implementation of the Mesothelioma Damages Bill.
Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons gave evidence to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the Bill which removes the iniquity of mesothelioma sufferers having to choose between claiming compensation for themselves, or not claiming to ensure their families’ rights to full compensation after their deaths.
Frank Maguire argued strongly that the Bill should be introduced immediately, rather than wait the extra months for it pass through the Scottish Parliamentary system and become law.
On Wednesday December 13, Deputy Justice Minister Johann Lamont announced that the Bill would be amended to allow those affected to claim under its provisions within the week.
The official release acknowledged the crucial role of representations from Thompsons, who handle over 90% Asbestos cases in Scotland, and others speaking on behalf of the families.
Ms Lamont said: "Mesothelioma is a devastating disease – a cancer for which there is no cure. It can develop many years after exposure to asbestos and when it does, can kill fast.
“It is only right that we do all we can to minimise the distress this problem causes to those suffering from this disease and to their families, as speedily as possible.
“That’s why, following our earlier consultation on damages, legislation was introduced to Parliament in the autumn to free people inflicted with this disease from the distressing choice between receiving compensation themselves or allowing their relatives to benefit from greater awards.
“And why, following further comments from families’ representatives about the provisions in the Bill, we have decided to provide that this Bill should apply to any case where the sufferer recovers damages or obtains a full settlement on or after 20 December.
“When mesothelioma strikes, we must ensure families receive the support they need and are not worried about legal choices. This legislation is designed to deliver exactly that.”
Frank Maguire said: “It is extremely heartening that the Scottish Executive has accepted the points we made at the Justice Committee and decided to implement the Bill virtually immediately.
“This is tremendous news for all those suffering from mesothelioma who have elected to die without claiming damages for themselves so as not to disadvantage their families.
“It will have a major affect on getting on for around 100 cases we are handling where victims and their families have put their legal claims on hold, despite the fact that time is so crucial to them.
“When I gave evidence to the Justice Committee last week I asked them to bring the legislation forward for this very reason.
“I am delighted that people who have been holding back can now go ahead and claim compensation on their own behalf, safe in the knowledge that their families will also have a full claim after they have gone.
“ We will now commence proceedings in these cases as a matter of urgency.”
Harry McCluskey, Secretary of Clydeside Action on Asbestos said: “Mesothelioma sufferers and their families will be heartened by this news.
“It will end the terrible dilemma mesothelioma sufferers faced of either making a claim for themselves, which would deprive their families, or choosing to die without claiming to protect their families’ rights.”
Mesothelioma sufferer William O’Rourke, a client of Clydeside Action on Asbestos said:
“This is excellent news. It means I can now claim my damages in my lifetime without affecting my family.
“It recognises the urgency of my condition and means that my family can still proceed with their damages claim after I have gone.”