Pleural Plaques victims and campaigners hailed the UK Supreme Court’s groundbreaking judgment as a “victory for justice and democracy over insurers’ greed and self-interest.”
The Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament was within its rights to pass a new law restoring pleural plaques victims’ right to compensation after the House of Lords controversially decreed the condition was harmless.
In reaching its decision the Supreme Court rejected insurance companies’ arguments that the new Scottish law breached their human rights.
Partner Patrick McGuire of Thompsons Solicitors who handle 90% of Scottish pleural plaques cases said: “This is a great day for democracy because the Supreme Court has reinforced the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate to protect the rights of its citizens.
“It is also tremendous news for our clients, and all the other victims of pleural plaques who have to live with the terrible strain of knowing the asbestos fibres in their lungs could turn into deadly forms of cancer.
“This verdict means that 1,200 Scottish Pleural Plaques victims, some of whom have been in legal limbo for five or six years, can now pursue their cases through courts. And we believe their claims will succeed.”
He dedicated the victory to Thompsons senior partner Frank Maguire a life-long asbestos campaigner who died from a brain tumour last month.
He said: “Frank was at the very heart of the pleural plaques campaign and we are sincerely grateful for his involvement, expertise and passion for this cause, which I have no doubt massively contributed to this successful outcome”.
Laura Blane Thompsons Partner and an asbestos specialist with the firm said: “The insurance companies have created the myth of a compensation culture in this country, and blamed rising policy charges on so called fraudulent claims.
“But they must have spent tens of millions of pounds trying to block pleural plaques legislation, and it is their policy holders who will have to foot that particular bill”.
She called on the insurance companies to accept the verdict rather than trying to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
But she said: “Even if they do this would not allow the suspension of domestic law and the Act would have to come into force now, allowing the backlog of cases to proceed through the courts.
“We have 650 pleural plaques cases on hold in the courts and another 450 coming through the system.
“The fact that some 45 of our clients have died waiting for their cases to settle, the majority from non-asbestos related conditions and another 30 have gone on to to develop more serious asbestos related conditions underlines how important it is that they get justice now”.
Phyllis Craig, Senior Welfare Rights Officer and Chair of Clydeside Action on Asbestos said: ‘I am extremely pleased that the insurers appeal has been unsuccessful, and that common sense and justice have prevailed.
“Since the introduction of the law to protect the right to pursue compensation for pleural plaque in Scotland in 2009, the insurers have repeatedly tried to undermine the rights of those with an asbestos related condition.
“I do question how much the insurers have spent on legal advice and representation whilst they exhausted every avenue to avoid their responsibility.
“Hundreds of people across Scotland have been waiting for over five years to hear if they can or cannot proceed with their claim for compensation, and have had to endure considerable anxiety and uncertainty about their future.
“I sincerely hope that this puts an end to the insurers trying to avoid their responsibilities, and that the cases can now proceed.’
Bob Dickie Chair of Clydebank Asbestos Group who represents around 200 pleural plaques victims said: “I am highly delighted that the Supreme Court has found in favour of the victims and against the insurance companies.
“When it comes to asbestos victims and insurance companies it is just one long battle. The insurers are happy to take the premiums and then they fight through the courts to avoid paying out.
‘And the longer they can tie things up in the courts the longer they are not paying out on claims”.