Thompsons Solicitors has joined forces with Clydeside Action on Asbestos, trade union colleagues and other campaigners to welcome the Scottish Parliament’s decision to restore pleural plaques victims’ right to compensation.
The landmark victory for pleural plaque sufferers in Scotland was won following the passing of the Damages (Asbestos Related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009. The new law will allow people diagnosed with pleural plaque to continue to pursue compensation for their condition if the exposure occurred whilst working for an employer in Scotland.
The right to pursue compensation for pleural plaque was under threat following cases heard by the House of Lords in 2007. The new law was passed by the Scottish Parliament and maintains the right to pursue and receive compensation in Scotland.
It has received widespread support from medical and legal professionals as well as cross party MSPs. Mr Harry McCluskey of Clydeside Action on Asbestos stated ‘The campaign for justice for pleural plaque sufferers in Scotland was initiated and led by Clydeside Action on Asbestos. It is my firm belief that it is the fundamental right of people with an asbestos related disease to call to account negligent employers through the pursuit of compensation. I have nothing but praise for all of the MSPs who supported the need for legislation and who participated in the resulting debates. We could not have secured such a successful outcome for pleural plaque sufferers without their support. Phyllis Craig, Senior Welfare Rights Officer for the charity continued ‘The impact of a diagnosis of pleural plaque should never be underestimated. A diagnosis confirms that asbestos exposure has cause physiological change to the lung and raises the very real possibility of developing another asbestos related disease.
The Scottish Government have recognised this, and have acted on behalf of people who were exposed to asbestos simply by going to work. The support of cross party MSPs and the medical profession has been most gratefully received and I cannot thank the consultants who submitted letters of support enough for their involvement and interest.
Mr Frank Maguire Senior Partner of Thompsons Solicitors, who currently acts for 647 pleural plaque cases, stated “I and my colleagues have been more than pleased to give our full advice and backing to Clydeside Action on Asbestos and MSPs. This means that those who have had the news that they have pleural plaques will continue to be able to obtain compensation for their anxiety about what might happen to them in the future and also, most importantly, be able to come back to the court in the event of them getting a serious asbestos disease including one that could kill them.
They will also be able to hold the employers to account in negligently and sometimes recklessly exposing them to asbestos in the past. We have 247 cases in the Court of Session which have had to be stopped pending this legislation. They can now proceed. We can also proceed with 473 backed up cases. The judges in the House of Lords came up with an unjust conclusion which has been rectified by the Scottish Parliament. Thompson Solicitors is proud to have played its part in this campaign. We will work with our sister company in England and Wales, trade union colleagues and victims’ families to support MPs in ensuring these rights are extended to asbestos victims in England and Wales.”
Mr Stuart McMillan MSP initially secured a motion to allow the issue to be debated in the Scottish Parliament. Mr McMillan commented ‘The Scottish Parliament was in a position to act on behalf of the people of Scotland who have been diagnosed with pleural plaque and on behalf of those who will be diagnosed in the future. I am delighted that the Bill was accepted and that the rights of pleural plaque sufferers has been clarified and secured in Scotland. According to Mr Bill Kidd ‘The issue wasn’t only the need for legislation but the need to progress quickly on behalf of sufferers.
The House of Lords decision which, in effect, would have prevented pleural plaque sufferers from pursuing compensation was issued in 2007. Since this time, hundreds of families have had their cases put on hold and newly diagnosed sufferers faced the possibility of never having the chance to obtain compensation, despite their obvious worry and concern about what the future may hold. Mr Bill Butler MSP added ‘This was not a party political issue.
This was an issue that affected constituents throughout Scotland and across parties. The right to pursue compensation for asbestos related conditions will remain in Scotland and I firmly believe that the legislation was necessary to allow pleural plaque sufferers access to the justice they rightly deserve.’ Mr Hugh Scullion of Unite reiterated ‘To my mind, the need to preserve the right to pursue compensation has to be given the serious consideration that it deserves. I wholly welcome the terms of the law and recognise the concerns that an individual would have following a diagnosis.’