Thursday, 12 March 2009
Ayrshire lawyer welcomes Scottish Parliament’s new asbestos law
A LEADING Ayrshire lawyer has welcomed the passing of a new law by the Scottish Parliament which will mean that people negligently exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with pleural plaques will continue to be able to raise an action for damages.
The Scottish Parliament has passed the Scottish Government’s Damages (Asbestos-related conditions) (Scotland) Bill, ensuring that a contrary House of Lords judgement will not have effect in Scotland.
Norman Geddes (pictured above) is senior partner at the Accident and Injury Claims Centre and Frazer Coogans Solicitors in Ayr.
In October 2007, he expressed his disappointment at the House of Lords judgement blocking compensation for pleural plaques, an asbestos-related lung condition that accounts for as many as 75 per cent of all asbestos claims in the UK.
He said at the time: “It is disappointing that the House of Lords has ruled that people with pleural plaques shouldn’t be awarded compensation. The condition of pleural plaques, which causes thickening of the lung membranes, clearly indicates the presence of asbestos fibres in the lungs, and can lead to clinical depression caused by anxiety over that asbestos, which may in turn cause life-threatening illnesses to develop later.
“However, it is important to stress that, in spite of this ruling, people with mesothelioma, a malignant tumour in lung tissue caused by exposure to asbestos, are still entitled to receive compensation.”
“This judgement can only cause further anxiety for people who are already living with the knowledge that their lungs have been irreparably scarred by asbestos, but who have not yet developed an even more serious condition. The Scottish Government must enact legislation urgently to remedy this most unjust situation.”
For over two decades, it had been accepted that pleural plaques constitute an injury for which damages are recoverable in civil law. However, a series of cases were contested by insurers, and on 17 October 2007 the House of Lords ruled that pleural plaques do not merit compensation in tort law (the English equivalent of Scots delict). While restricted to England and Wales and not binding in Scotland, the judgement would be considered as highly persuasive by the Scottish courts.
In November 2007 the Scottish Government announced that it intended to ensure that the judgement did not have effect in Scotland. In June 2008, after a period of consultation, the Scottish Government introduced the Damages (Asbestos-related conditions) (Scotland) Bill, to ensure that - despite the House of Lords judgement - pleural plaques and other asymptomatic asbestos-related conditions remain actionable.
The Bill was scrutinised by the Justice Committee and, in November 2008, was endorsed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament. At that time the Scottish Government agreed to review the financial implications of the Bill and, after further consultation and analysis, in February 2009 revised financial estimates were presented to the Justice Committee.
Commenting on the passing of the new Bill, Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing said: “Many Scots in the past contributed to our nation's wealth, working in industries such as ship building and construction. Some were not properly protected against exposure to the potentially lethal substance of asbestos.
“We have a moral duty to ensure that those who suffer the effects of asbestos due to our industrial past should be able to claim for damages.
“The Parliament has today agreed that the House of Lords judgement which denied compensation for pleural plaques in England should not have effect in Scotland. I welcome that decision.”
Norman Geddes concluded: “The Scottish Parliament is to be commended for this unprecedented initiative. The fact that party politics were set aside to permit a unanimous endorsement of this change in the law is notable and refreshing. Scots Law can now continue to provide the protection to our citizens for which it is renowned.”
Accident & Injury Claims Centre
Frazer Coogans Solicitors
46 Dalblair Road
Ayr KA7 1UQ
Norman Geddes, Senior Partner
Tel: 07000 326243
Fax: 01292 272600
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