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Thompsons Welcome New Law to Restore Justice to Victims of Pleural Plaques

Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire, Senior Partner with Thompsons Solicitors welcomed the news that the Scottish Government is to introduce a bill to reverse the House of Lords recent Judgment on pleural plaques.

The provisions of the Bill would take effect from the date of the Judgment.

This will mean that those people negligently exposed to asbestos who are diagnosed with pleural plaques will continue to be able to raise an action for damages.

Mr Maguire, who represents 600 clients suffering from pleural plaques said: "The victims of pleural plaques had rights to compensation until the House of Lords judgement removed those rights.

"Now thankfully the Scottish Government recognises the injustice of that decision and is using its powers to overturn the House of Lords judgement by introducing legislation to fully restore victims' rights.

"Pleural plaques is not just a bit of scarring on the lungs, this is the calling card.

"So what we do is get damages for that, and we also get the reservation so that they can come back in the future to quickly get their compensation if they do get mesothelioma.

"So they have this reassurance for themselves and their families. They have already established their case from the pleural plaques, and if they get this horrible disease it is a very simple process of establishing it and getting their compensation.

"I have 600 clients who have pleural plaques and they are living with the fear that it could develop into fatal conditions like mesothelioma.

"They will welcome the news that they will now be able to seek compensation for the extreme worry and anxiety of living with pleural plaques, and will again have the right to return to seek further compensation if they develop a more serious form of asbestos related diseases like mesothelioma.

"Having provided the Scottish Government with a draft bill to right the injustice of the House of Lords judgement we will continue to work with them to help ensure that the legislation achieves its aims."

Mr Maguire added that the problem victims faced was that the House of Lords ruling removed their rights to compensation regardless of the justice of their case.

"We hardly ever have any difficulty in proving negligence. Everyone knows that John Browns and various other companies were negligent and that they recklessly exposed their workers to asbestos.

"We have good medical experts who can confirm that they have pleural plaques, they then get worried about it. Now thankfully they will once again be able to claim their just compensation."

Hugh Scullion of Unite Union which campaigned with the asbestos action groups said: "This is great news for all our members who suffer from this terrible industrial disease.

"Employers must now realise that there is no hiding place for them in Scotland, and that they will not be able to evade their obligations to their employees, and former employees through a flawed House of Lords judgement."

Ian Tasker Assistant Secretary of the STUC said: "The House of Lords Judgement was a travesty in that it enabled unscrupulous employers, and their insurance companies to avoid their obligations to workers whom they recklessly and knowing exposed to asbestos.

"We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government is acting to restore these rights."

The House of Lords Judgment on 17 October ruled that asymptomatic pleural plaques do not give rise to a cause of action under the law of damages.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:

"The effects of asbestos are a terrible legacy of Scotland's industrial past and we should not turn our backs on those who contributed to our nation's wealth in the past.

"Pleural plaques in anyone exposed to asbestos mean they have a greatly increased lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma and a small but significantly increased risk of developing bronchial carcinoma.

"This will mean that people diagnosed with this condition will have to live with the worry of possible future ill health for the rest of their lives.

"That is why this Scottish Government is to take steps to reverse the House of Lords Judgment and ensure that people with pleural plaques can continue to raise an action for damages.

"We have listened to the many voices who have campaigned on behalf of asbestos sufferers. This Government takes this issue very seriously and I hope this move will bring some relief to people living with this condition."

The House of Lords Judgment in Johnston v NEI International Combustion Ltd published on Wednesday 17 October ruled that pleural plaques do not give rise to a cause of action under the law of damages. Prior to this Judgment, pleural plaques had been regarded as actionable for over 20 years.

The Scottish Cabinet agreed at its 27 November meeting to introduce a Bill which will reverse the House of Lords Judgment and enable those negligently exposed to asbestos who have been diagnosed with pleural plaques to continue to be able to raise and pursue actions for damages in Scotland. The provisions of the Bill would take effect from the date of the Judgment.

The Government is currently considering what the earliest opportunity is for this Bill to be placed into the Legislative Programme.

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