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Scotland leads the UK in rights to justice for victims of the “deadly dust”

Laura Blane, Specialist Asbestos LawyerScotland’s award winning personal injury firm and asbestos campaigners, Thompsons Solicitors, have backed calls from Unite the Union and victims’ organisations for the UK Government to match Scotland’s commitment to asbestos sufferers. 

The call comes after Wednesday’s landmark ruling by the Supreme Court which 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. Thompsons Solicitors contested the insurance companies’ claims at the appeal and were the key legal force behind the decision.   

Scotland leads the UK in recognising the rights of asbestos sufferers to compensation.  The landmark ruling means a total of four pieces of legislation have been passed since 2006 by the Scottish Parliament which reinforces the rights of asbestos sufferers and their relatives to redress for exposure to the “deadly dust” north of the border.

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, Rights of Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Act 2007, Damages (Scotland) Act 2011 and now the Damages (Asbestos-related conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009 all enshrine additional rights for asbestos sufferers and their loved ones to seek compensation for the devastating effects the dust causes.

Laura Blane, from Thompsons Solicitors, who handle 90% of the estimated 1200 pleural plaques cases in Scotland, said:

“Whether it’s through the courts or through our campaign work, Thompsons Solicitors is constantly committed to fighting for the rights to proper redress for those exposed to asbestos. 

“The Rights to Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Act 2007, the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011 and now pleural plaques legislation are a few examples of just how much Scotland leads the rest of the UK in this area of law.

“The progress made in Scotland should serve as an example to the rest of the UK.”

Unite Regional Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said:

“Wednesday’s decision was a victory for progressive politics.  Scotland has set the standard for the rest of the UK.  The government at Westminster must match Scotland’s commitment to asbestos sufferers.    

“Pleural plaques are recognised by medical experts as a sign of irreversible damage to the lining of the lungs and can be caused by a history of exposure to asbestos which itself carries an increased risk of deadly diseases like mesothelioma.

“Over the last five years, Scotland has overtaken the rest of the UK in recognising that workers exposed to asbestos and those close to them deserve the fullest possible redress for the suffering caused by this deadly dust.  It’s now time for the rest of the UK to match that commitment.”

Phyllis Craig, senior welfare officer at Clydeside Action on Asbestos, said:

“The decision of the Supreme Court has resoundingly reasserted the right to pursue compensation in Scotland for Pleural Plaque. 

“Much progress has been made in Scotland to ensure that the victims of asbestos have better rights.  This should serve as an example to the UK Government.

“Asbestos sufferers across the UK deserve these rights.”

Bob Dickie Chair of Clydebank Asbestos Group who represents around 200 pleural plaques victims said:

“These are the kind of rights asbestos sufferers deserve across the UK. 

“I hope the UK Government can tear themselves away from the arguments of the major insurers and see sense.

“If they can do it in Scotland, why not England?”  Key asbestos legislation developments in Scotland:

The Rights of Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Act 2007- This ended the heart-wrenching choice mesothelioma sufferers faced of either seeking damages themselves while alive or not pursuing a claim so that their family could get the full compensation their family deserved. 

Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006- This Act was introduced to extend the distribution of compensation to family members who had previously been unable to claim for the loss of a loved one.  In the past, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren of the deceased did not have any legal right to claim and were offered no recognition or compensation for their loss.  The introduction of the above Act on the 4th May 2006 now means that more family members and loved ones have the potential to claim.

Damages (Scotland) Act 2011- This Act overhauled the rules on the level of financial support that families are entitled to in law, through the compensation process, when a family member dies as a result of a wrongful death caused through accident, injury or disease.  Before the Act, the law was completely out of date, based on a model from a by-gone era when families only had one bread winner, discriminating against modern families where both partners work.  The Act ensures that families receive proper and full compensation when they need it most and will also ensure that it is without the need for unnecessarily long court cases. The Damages (Asbestos-related conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009. This Act finally gives pleural plaques sufferers access to compensation. 

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