Thursday, October 18, 2007

Law change call after Asbestos compensation ruling

Asbestos victims, campaigners and some politicians are calling for law changes after the Law Lords ruling on asbestos compensation.

The Herald reports :

Call for change in law after asbestos cash ruling


Asbestos disease sufferers and campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to change the law to ensure a House of Lords ruling denying compensation for thousands will not apply in Scotland.

Yesterday it was ruled that sufferers of pleural plaques are not entitled to receive compensation, ruling in favour of insurance firms in five test cases. The judgment has angered sufferers in Scotland who have been diagnosed with the condition, which can develop into the cancer mesothelioma.

The right to compensation had existed for 20 years until it was removed by a ruling in January last year. Yesterday, the Lords rejected an appeal by union Unite against the decision.

Campaigners, lawyers, sufferers and MSPs united yesterday to condemn the ruling and demand action from the Scottish Government. Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite, said: "This is a harsh decision which will affect thousands of people with pleural plaques now and in the future."

Frank Maguire, solicitor advocate with Thompsons solicitors, deals with hundreds of asbestos-related cases.

He said: "This judgment will only diminish respect for the law by showing how it can be divorced from reality.

"Employers who recklessly exposed their workers, and insurance companies desperate to avoid paying out, have successfully argued that someone with asbestos in their lungs and at risk of getting a terminal disease has suffered no harm and has no claim. That is patently nonsense.

"I urge the Scottish Parliament to ensure the victims' rights are recognised and the companies brought to account."

Agnes Dickson, 65, from East Kilbride, was diagnosed with pleural plaques earlier this year. Her husband Jim, 66, and brother Gordon McEwan are also sufferers.

This harsh decision will hit thousands of people now and in the future

Her other brother, Robert McEwan, has mesothelioma after working on oil rigs.

Mrs Dickson said: "When I was a teenager, 40 to 50 years ago, my uncle lodged with my family and he worked for an asbestos firm. He came home each night covered in dust and my mother and I would shake his overalls in the garden.

"I spent my working life in an office so it is the only connection I am aware of. My brother, Gordon, did not work with asbestos either. I was pursuing a case against my uncle's then-employers Cape Board and Panels, until the ruling yesterday.

"I will continue to fight. I feel physically fine at the moment but I know it can develop into mesothelioma and I see my brother Robert suffering badly and I worry that I will not see my grandchildren grow up."

Labour MSP Bill Butler said: "Labour would definitely support legislation, if that is the only way to solve the problem. I hope the new administration and all other parties would also give their support."

Bill Kidd, SNP MSP, said: "I think it is ridiculous in the extreme to treat people who have contributed so much in such an appalling manner.

"If we need to legislate I would be very much in favour."

Harry McCluskey, secretary of Clydeside Action on Asbestos, said: "The judgment has gone in favour of insurance firms and employers and against the workers who have to live with the condition with the appalling fear that it could develop into mesothelioma."

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "This government is currently examining the position in light of the judgment and will consider what implications, if any, it has for Scotland."

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