Victory for Scottish shipyard workers entitled to claim asbestos compensation for pleural plaques

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Shipyard workers in Scotland who have worked with asbestos are delighted that they may now claim asbestos compensation for another illness caused by working with asbestos – pleural plaques.

Workers who have been diagnosed with Asbestosis or Mesothelioma have been able to claim asbestos compensation, but those with pleural plaques – which are caused by exposure to asbestos but not deemed as serious as Asbestosis or Mesothelioma – were barred from claiming asbestos compensation after a House of Lords ruling in 2007 said that pleural plaques did not amount to a 'compensatable injury'.

However Scottish legislation overturned that decision for asbestos compensation claims in Scotland and ruled that workers exposed to asbestos and suffering from pleural plaques could indeed claim compensation for their asbestos-related illness.

The insurance industry mounted a legal bid to prevent people suffering with pleural plaques from claiming asbestos compensation, but at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on January 8 2010, Lord Emslie ruled against the insurance companies Aviva, Axa, RSA and Zurich and paved the way for many more asbestos compensation claims which could run into billions of pounds.

Hugh Scullion, general secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, said it was delighted that the insurance companies’ attempts to shirk their responsibilities over asbestos compensation had been rebuffed.

"It is now time for shipbuilders to start paying out compensation to all claimants in Scotland," he said. "We also hope that this judgment will be noted and acted upon by the Westminster government. In England and Wales insurance companies are still able to get away with not compensating sufferers of pleural plaques."

Emma Costin, head of Occupational Disease at Simpson Millar LLP, commented that "Ever since the change in the law in Scotland we have received a steady stream of enquiries from people in England and Wales who have been diagnosed with pleural plaques and simply don't understand why it is that their former employers are able to admit fault for exposing them to a substance that was known to be highly dangerous, and yet escape having to pay compensation because the harm they have suffered as a result - permanent scarring to their lung walls and the anxiety that this diagnosis inevitably brings with it - is not deemed to be causing symptoms. From the perspective of the victim this is unjust and all the more so now that their fellow workers in Scotland are able to continue to claim and receive fair compensation. In the light of the Scottish decision we will continue to campaign for equal rights for victims in England and Wales."

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