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Pleural Plaques Opinion - 12th April 2011                            Picture courtesy of the Daily Record

Frank Maguire, Senior PartnerPleural Plaques campaigners and victims expressed their delight at the decisions of three Court of Session Appeal Judges who backed the Scottish Parliament’s law giving victims the legal right to pursue their claims for compensation.  This followed upon Lord Emslie’s successful opinion which also upheld the claimants’ rights.

Thompsons organised simultaneous press conferences in Glasgow and Aberdeen as soon as the judgment was announced.Frank Maguire, senior partner with Thompsons Solicitors who represent 90% of Scottish pleural plaques cases chaired the conference in Glasgow while partner Chris Gordon chaired a press conference for North East media in the firm’s Aberdeen office.

Welcoming the judgment Mr Maguire said: “This is a great day for democracy and a triumph for justice over insurers trying to avoid their responsibilities.

“This is just the latest in a long series of legal challenges the insurance industry has mounted to undermine asbestos exposure victims’ rights to compensation.

“I am delighted it has been again rejected.

“The insurers now have to do the decent thing and no longer delay payments for wrongful conduct in exposing employees to asbestos exposure by employers and thus prolonging the victims’ agony.

“We have almost 1,000 clients with who are living testimony to the real and damaging effects of living with pleural plaques, and they deserve fair and just compensation now.

“Some 40 of our clients have died while waiting for their cases to settle, the majority from non-asbestos related conditions and another 20 have gone on to develop more serious asbestos related conditions”.

Phyllis Craig Senior Welfare Rights Officer for Clydeside Action on Asbestos said: “I am extremely pleased that the insurers’ appeal has been unsuccessful.

“Since the introduction of the law in June 2009 the insurers have repeatedly tried to undermine the rights of those with an asbestos related condition.

“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.

“The elation felt following the introduction of the law in Scotland was overshadowed by the insurers determination to exhaust the appeals process.

“Their delaying tactics have considerably contributed to the stress and anxiety of those affected. I sincerely hope that this puts an end to the insurers trying to avoid their responsibilities and the cases can now proceed.“

Bob Dickie Chair of Clydebank Action on Asbestos who represents around 200 pleural plaques victims said: “It is absolutely wonderful that the Judges have upheld the Act of the Scottish Parliament and the right of pleural plaques victims to seek compensation.

“The legal wrangling has gone on for five years, putting a huge additional strain on those already under all the pressures of coping with plaques.

Pleural plaques victims also welcomed the judgment.

Builder George O’Donnell was diagnosed with pleural plaques two years ago. He is one of at least three Thompsons clients whose pleural plaques has developed into incurable mesothelioma.

His daughter Elaine Darling who represented him at a press conference after the judgment was announced said:

“This decision has come too late to help my Dad but he will be pleased for all those other people who suffer from pleural plaques.

“He is living proof that it’s nonsense to say that pleural plaques don’t affect people.

“It’s been very hard seeing how the mesothelioma has affected my Dad, seeing him lose weight and getting thinner about the face. 

“It’s frightening how quickly something that has been inside him for years can take effect. 

“It’s been really hard on my Mum but she is a real trouper and a great support to Dad.

“It’s just such a shame, because even at his time of life he still has so much to give…but being Dad he is still giving and we are making the most of our time with him”

Mr O’Donnell who is on a respite break said earlier: “I was diagnosed with pleural plaques about two years ago, but I had to go back the hospital nine months or so ago.

“They told me I had cancer and it had started to move, and had developed into mesothelioma.

“I attended the Beatson, and went through chemotherapy, but then they told me I had mesothelioma. They said there was nothing more they could do for me, and that my condition would just get worse.

“That’s very hard to take, but you just have to accept it and get on with it.

“It’s really hard on my family, my wife Mary and my two daughters and son.

“My youngest daughter just breaks her heart every time she sees me”.

Michael Johnstone 67, suffers from Pleural Plaques after being exposed at the Cape Board and Panels factory in Glasgow.

He said: “I think it’s terrible that the insurance companies have been dragging this out for five years.

“They kept taking their premiums even when they knew about asbestos, so that makes them responsible.”

“When I started working for Cape in 1979 they had just stopped using asbestos, but asbestos dust is like nuclear fall-out.

“Even if they close that nuclear plant in Japan the site and the surrounding area will be contaminated by radioactivity for years, and asbestos dust is exactly the same.

“The Cape factory was covered in it. It was everywhere, from the skirting boards and ledges to the rafters, so anyone who worked there for years afterwards would be breathing it in.

“I’ve lost count of the number of people I worked with in there who have since died, but of course at the time it was never put down to asbestos. It was always COPD or something like.

“When you’ve got Pleural Plaques it’s always on your mind, If you get a cold that goes into you chest and you get a pure hacking cough you think: ‘is that bloody asbestos going through my body’?

“So it’s a nonsense for anyone to say it doesn’t affect you and its not something you worry about. It’s always there niggling away in the background.”

Robert Adam, from Knightswood in Glasgow who worked in shipyards up and down the Clyde said: “As joiners we had to cut the asbestos boards.

“There was no doubt our employers kept us doing it long after they knew the dangers.

“They stopped us cutting the stuff with buzz saws and gave us a small blade, and told us not to kick up the dust.

“But you still weren’t allowed to leave where you were working for breaks. You only got off the ship at lunchtime and at the end of your shift.

Until a couple of years ago Robert regularly played at anything up to 20 Burns Suppers a year, but he has since had to give up piping altogether.

Robert a piper added: “The plaques make me so breathless I just can’t keep the pipes up.

“The worry is really hard to live with.

“Out of 150 joiners who worked with me at Caledonian joiners only about 30 are still alive. The others all died well before they were 65, most of them from mesothelioma or lung cancer.”

In Aberdeen Mr Gordon said: “I find it distasteful that the insurance companies have not respected the will of the Scottish parliament and its right to pass this legislation follow a campaign on behalf of those who suffer from pleural plaques.

“Thompsons have noticed an increase in clients with asbestos related conditions here in the North East, with about 80 new cases in the past year and that’s why Clydeside Action on Asbestos has opened a Grampian branch to offer help and support to those affected.

“Asbestos exposure has always been thought of as a central belt problem because of shipbuilding and heavy engineering.

“But there are a number of reasons why it is also a problem in this area.

“They include the fact that there was shipbuilding in this area, people have moved here from other areas, and other industries, particularly the building trades now have a high incidence of asbestos exposure from disturbing it while renovating old buildings”.

Ron Marsh 69, from Robert Street in Stonehaven who was diagnosed with Pleural Plaques five years ago welcomed the court’s decision.

He said: “I was exposed to asbestos when I took my first job with British Rail in 1960.

“I worked as a clerk making travel arrangement for BR staff, but I was based at the St Rollox locomotive maintenance works in Springburn in Glasgow.

“I was in and out of the engine maintenance sheds everyday, and of course all the boilers and other parts of the engines were lagged with asbestos.

“I went through life thinking, when the dangers of asbestos became known what a lucky escape I had, because I was absolutely fine till five years ago.

“Then I went for an X-ray for something entirely different and the doctor told me I had Pleural Plaques, and that nothing could be done about it.

“I don’t agree that it is symptomless. I have become far more breathless in the last five years, which I attribute the asbestos exposure.

“It has affected the way I live my life. I have had to give up sports I used to enjoy like sailing, and the other day I decided to cut the grass. Even though I don’t have a big garden I could do half of it.

“There is also the worry which is the biggest part of it. I have become this much more breathless in five years, where is it going to end. That’s a real worry.”

Since being diagnosed Ron has become an active member of Clydeside Action on Asbestos’ North East Branch is about to join the organisation’s management board.

He added: “Clydeside Action on Asbestos and Thompsons have been of great support to me, and I hope that by going on the management board I can give that sort of help to others”.

Pleural Plaques Opinion - 12th April 2011

Further news articles on this story:

  • Asbestos sufferers can continue compensation claims - BBC News 13th April 2011
  • Abestos victims victorious in David and Goliath battle - Scotsman 13th April 2011
  • Landmark asbestos ruling: Insurance firms urged to 'do the right thing' and pay up - The Daily Record 13th April 2011
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