Friday, November 26, 2010

Ethical sponsorship ? ‘Asbestos is good for you’ law firm sponsors Law Society’s Donald Dewar debate tournament on ‘more harm than good’ internet

EDINBURGH law firm Simpson & Marwick which famously told MSPs at the Scottish Parliament that asbestos related medical conditions such as pleural plaques ‘were good for you’ and are known to represent scores of solicitors facing negligence claims are revealed to be this year’s sponsor of the Law Society of Scotland’s ‘prestigious’ Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament, along with publishers Hodder Gibson. The debating tournament sees teams from schools all over Scotland compete in debates in an effort to teaches skills which are invaluable at university, job interviews and in employment.

Ironically, for a law firm which endured much publicity after news websites and video footage from the Scottish Parliament revealed the extent to which partners at Simpson & Marwick argued against the Scottish Government’s Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009, the opening topic for the opening rounds of this year’s Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament is the ‘merits of the word wide web – the internet, with teams of pupils debating the motion “This house believes the internet does more harm than good”. (I bet S&M believe the internet does more harm than good, at least to their reputations ! – Ed)

Topics for debate ? Lawyers for Simpson & Marwick told Holyrood Justice Committee ‘Pleural Plaques are good for you’ (Click image to watch video & HERE for more)

The Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009 was legislated by the Scottish Government & Scottish Parliament after vested interests (insurance firms) south of the border managed to secure a ruling in the House of Lords which took out various asbestos related condition such as pleural plaques from the list of ailments victims of asbestos exposure could claim for.

Scottish law firms, involving Simpson & Marwick, then Brodies LLP launched a legal challenge against the legislation in the Court of Session to prevent asbestos victims being able to use the new legislation to claim compensation. However, the insurers lost their case after Lord Emslie threw out the insurers legal challenge, which was led by the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates himself, Richard Keen QC.

In a 150-page judgment issued at the Court of Session, which can be read online here : OPINION OF LORD EMSLIE in the petition of AXA GENERAL INSURANCE LIMITED and OTHERS Petitioners; for Judicial Review of the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009, Lord Emslie stated: "Not surprisingly, individuals diagnosed with pleural plaques are liable to become alarmed and anxious for the future, and this may severely reduce their enjoyment and quality of life. The diagnosis confirms significant asbestos exposure in the past, of which they may or may not previously have been aware; it underlines the much higher risk which they now face, many hundreds of times greater than for members of the population at large, of contracting lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis; and in some cases it may bring to mind the suffering and perhaps death of friends, colleagues and relatives from these serious asbestos-related diseases.”

Among other roles Simpson & Marwick are generally known for, is being one of the lead representative law firms to the Law Society of Scotland's Master Insurance Policy, the solicitors Professional Indemnity Insurance scheme which fights clients who attempt to recover assets lost by the ever growing numbers of negligent, or ‘crooked lawyers’ which populate Scotland’s legal profession.

An independent investigation into the Master Policy undertaken by the University of Manchester’s Law School for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission during 2009 linked the Master Policy to deaths, revealing information relating to suicides involving clients who had become involved with the Master Policy, information which the insurers, law firms and the Law Society of Scotland deliberately concealed. Upon publication of the report, insiders at the SLCC claimed the significance of the ‘suicides’ was deliberately talked down in media releases, although it was heavily reported online at the time HERE.

The involvement of some controversial law firms in Scotland’s education curriculum is coming under increasing scrutiny after it was revealed law firms and the Law Society itself are engaged in blocking attempts to include impartial teaching of certain aspects of the justice system in schools, and perhaps more worryingly, some solicitors who have attended schools or been involved with children are, according to legal insiders, not always screened under current legislation for criminal offences of a sexual nature.

Law Society Press Release on Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament :

Pupils to debate if Internet does more harm than good

The opening heats of the Law Society of Scotland's annual debating tournament start today, Thursday 25 November at schools across Scotland.

This year's Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament will see 128 teams compete in the first round of heats during the next two weeks. The competition, which was launched in 1998 to celebrate and encourage debating in schools, has grown to become the largest competition of its kind in Scotland.

The tournament, sponsored by Simpson and Marwick solicitors and Hodder Gibson publishers, invites secondary school pupils to pit their wits and powers of persuasion against each other.

This year the teams will examine the merits of the world wide web web when they debate the motion 'This house believes the Internet does more harm than good' in the opening rounds. 64 successful teams will go through to the second stage.

Heather McPhee, education and training development officer at the Law Society of Scotland, said: "I'm delighted the tournament is remaining as popular as ever. The tournament spans the entire country and each year we see new schools opting to take part and test their debating skills.

She added: "The Donald Dewar Debating Tournament gives young people a chance to consider issues relating to them and a voice to express their views and opinions.

"It also helps pupils develop skills and confidence which will help them in all aspects of their lives."

Schools taking part for the first time are marked *

Barrhead High School*, The Berwickshire High School*, Bellshill Academy, Braes High School*, Buckhaven High School*, Clydebank High School*, Denny High School*, Dunblane High School*, Duncanrig Secondary School*, Leith Academy*, Peebles High School*, Oban High School*, Queen Anne High School*, St Ninian's High School*, St Paul's RC Academy*, Tynecastle High School*, High School of Dundee, Strathallan School, Perth High School, Aberdeen Grammar School, Millburn Academy, Glenalmond College, St Joseph's College, Stranraer Academy, Marr College, Belmont Academy, Jedburgh Grammar School, Earlston High School, Wallace High School, The Community School of Auchterarder, McLaren High School, Linlithgow Academy, St Margaret's Academy, Our Lady's High School, Hamilton College, Holy Cross High School, Stewart's Melville College, Craigmount High School, St George's School for Girls, The Glasgow Academy, Dunfermline High School, Madras College, Nairn Academy, Gordonstoun School, Elgin Academy, Perth Academy, Queensferry High School, St Columba's School, Greenock Academy, High School of Glasgow, Dollar Academy, Lenzie Academy, Douglas Academy, Belmont House School, Uddingston Grammar School, Girvan Academy,The Edinburgh Academy, Boroughmuir High School, Fettes College, Edinburgh, The Royal High School, Edinburgh, George Heriot's School, Edinburgh, St Mary's Music School, Edinburgh, Musselburgh Grammar School, George Watson's College, Edinburgh, Grove Academy, Forfar Academy, Inverclyde Academy, Balfron High School, Hutchesons' Grammar, Glasgow, Mearns Castle High School, Newton Mearns, Abronhill High School, Cumbernauld, St Margaret's School for Girls, Banchory Academy, The Gordon Schools, Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen, Sandwick Junior High, Albyn School, Inverkeithing High, High School of Dundee, High School of Glasgow, Coltness High School, Sgoil Lionacleit, Merchiston Castle School, Mary Erskine School, Preston Lodge High School, Dalkeith High, Bearsden Academy, All Saints RC Secondary School, Holy Cross High School, Portobello High.

BACKGROUND : Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009

Related media coverage HERE, HERE, HERE & HERE

Introductory Text

1.Pleural plaques

(1)Asbestos-related pleural plaques are a personal injury which is not negligible.

(2)Accordingly, they constitute actionable harm for the purposes of an action of damages for personal injuries.

(3)Any rule of law the effect of which is that asbestos-related pleural plaques do not constitute actionable harm ceases to apply to the extent it has that effect.

(4)But nothing in this section otherwise affects any enactment or rule of law which determines whether and in what circumstances a person may be liable in damages in respect of personal injuries.

2.Pleural thickening and asbestosis

(1)For the avoidance of doubt, a condition mentioned in subsection (2) which has not caused and is not causing impairment of a person's physical condition is a personal injury which is not negligible.

(2)Those conditions are—

(a)asbestos-related pleural thickening; and


(3)Accordingly, such a condition constitutes actionable harm for the purposes of an action of damages for personal injuries.

(4)Any rule of law the effect of which is that such a condition does not constitute actionable harm ceases to apply to the extent it has that effect.

(5)But nothing in this section otherwise affects any enactment or rule of law which determines whether and in what circumstances a person may be liable in damages in respect of personal injuries.

3.Limitation of actions

(1)This section applies to an action of damages for personal injuries—

(a)in which the damages claimed consist of or include damages in respect of—

(i)asbestos-related pleural plaques; or

(ii)a condition to which section 2 applies; and

(b)which, in the case of an action commenced before the date this section comes into force, has not been determined by that date.

(2)For the purposes of sections 17 and 18 of the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 (c. 52) (limitation in respect of actions for personal injuries), the period beginning with 17 October 2007 and ending with the day on which this section comes into force is to be left out of account.

4.Commencement and retrospective effect

(1)This Act (other than this subsection and section 5) comes into force on such day as the Scottish Ministers may, by order made by statutory instrument, appoint.

(2)Sections 1 and 2 are to be treated for all purposes as having always had effect.

(3)But those sections have no effect in relation to—

(a)a claim which is settled before the date on which subsection (2) comes into force (whether or not legal proceedings in relation to the claim have been commenced); or

(b)legal proceedings which are determined before that date.

5.Short title and Crown application

(1)This Act may be cited as the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009.

(2)This Act binds the Crown.


Anonymous said...

One has to question who would let a firm with Simpson & Marwick's reputation within a mile of young, impressionable minds.

Clearly standards vary.

Anonymous said...

What are the odds in that list of schools some kid has a relative who suffered asbestos poisoning ?

You could say cancer has entered the classroom via the Law Society of Scotland .

Anonymous said...

Almost like getting BP to teach our kids about how not to create an oil spill!

Anonymous said...

I know of a particular case where a solicitor who has a conviction for drunk driving appeared at a school to give a talk to pupils about the legal system.

Is this info any good ?