Pleural Plaques sufferers in Northern Ireland win compensation
According to new legislation effective from 14 December, people in Northern Ireland suffering from pleural plaques will be able to claim from a compensation pot of £2.5m.
This reverses a 2007 House of Lords ruling that victims could not claim compensation for pleural plaques in the UK.
At the UK Supreme Court on 12 October 2011, insurers challenged Legislation for Pleural Plaques compensation in Scotland. The court rejected their claims that the legislation infringed their human rights and was outside the competence of the Scottish parliament.
Sammy Wilson, the Northern Ireland Finance Minister, said the challenge to the corresponding legislation in Scotland had cast a long shadow. "I fought hard to get the Northern Ireland legislation through the assembly and submitted for royal assent. However, I always believed that the policy objectives of the act were just and fair and that belief has now been vindicated by the ruling of the UK Supreme Court in relation to the Scottish legislation."
Welcoming the decision, Emma Costin, Head of Industrial Illness
at Simpson Millar LLP said the 2011 act is vitally important.
"Pleural plaques are caused by inhaling relatively large amounts of asbestos dust. Although plaques themselves do not always cause symptoms and they do not progress as a disease process in themselves, when someone is diagnosed with pleural plaques they will inevitably worry that because of their past exposure to asbestos the next cough or cold that they develop will the start of something sinister."
"People living with pleural plaques describe the diagnosis as a constant reminder of the risk of serious asbestos disease. It is plain wrong that having been able to recover compensation for over 30 years in England and Wales this right has now been taken away only to be restored by statute in Scotland and now Northern Ireland. The post code lottery is glaring, and will inevitably lead to forum shopping. Simpson Millar remains committed to campaigning for the rights of victims of asbestos disease, including pleural plaques, in England and Wales and throughout the UK."
The Unite union's director of legal services, Howard Beckett, said: "It is great news that our members in Scotland and now Northern Ireland can be compensated for developing pleural plaques."
"However, workers in England and Wales are left in the cold and have no rights to claim compensation for being exposed to asbestos due to the negligence of their employers."
"This segregation must end. It is time the government woke up to the fact that exposure to asbestos is a serious health and safety issue, and only by the fear of litigation can the excesses of irresponsible employers be prevented."
Mark Durkan, the SDLP Foyle MP who lobbied at Westminster for the reversal of the Law Lords decision of 2007, commended the Executive for putting aside £2.5m for claims. "Victims who suffer with the condition caused by negligent exposure to asbestos have waited long enough for justice."