Thursday, April 23, 2009

Insurers launch legal challenge against Scotland's asbestos ‘pleural plaques’ compensation law

Using the Edinburgh law firm of Brodies LLP, several large insurance firms have launched a legal challenge by way of a judicial review against the recently passed Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act, which seeks to allow those suffering from ‘pleural plaques’ a condition many associate with exposure to asbestos.

Peter Cherbi’s Diary of Injustice law blog reports on the insurers case for challenge against the law, and some curious associations some of the plaintiffs have with the Scottish Government …

'Money must come before life' as insurers & lawyers launch legal challenge against Scotland's asbestos compensation law

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society 'happy' over challenge against asbestos laws. Scots law firm Brodies LLP, acting for the big insurers, Avira, AXA Insurance, RSA, and Zurich, have launched a legal challenge in the form of a judicial review against The Scottish Government’s Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act, which passed the Scottish Parliament despite Tory opposition in a 98-16 vote and received Royal Assent last Friday.

The legal challenge to Scotland's law making powers, comes amid insurers claims that the new law, which makes it easier for victims of asbestos related illnesses to claim compensation, contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights and insurers' economic rights. However, can an insurer claim their Human Rights are being breached when it might just turn out those same insurers in respect of many other claims, do not respect the Human Rights of claimants or customers.

Simply, what we have here, is big business & corporations claiming their own human rights are being breached because they will have to pay out money to asbestos victims in Scotland, while not having to pay out in England & Wales because the House of Lords ruled in their favour that ‘pleural plaques’ do not qualify for compensation. It was this House of Lords ruling which prompted the Scottish Government to introduce the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act, arguing pleural plaques were symptomatic of asbestos exposure.

I reported on the earlier threats from the Insurers to take legal action if the Asbestos claims legislation was passed at the Parliament, here : Insurance firms with links to Scottish Government threaten legal challenge against Holyrood on asbestos claims reforms

ScottishGovernmentInsurers challenging asbestos law also insure Alex Salmond’s Scottish Govt. Some of the insurers who are participating in the legal challenge against Holyrood’s law making powers, have links to the SNP minority controlled Scottish Government, as you can see in my earlier report. At least one of the insurers, Royal & Sun Alliance is identified in papers showing insurance deals between, among other insurers, the RSA and Alex Salmond’s administration to provide indemnity insurance cover for quangos created by Ministers and also claims protection for the Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS).

The insurers Aviva, AXA Insurance, RSA, and Zurich who launched the legal action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, have argued that pleural plaques, which the new legislation recognises as a symptom of asbestos related illness, is nothing much to do with victims fatal exposure to the substance, going so far as to put their points on this argument in a rather unconvincing manner at the Scottish Parliament, which you can watch here :

Dr Pamela Abernethy of Edinburgh legal firm Simpson & Marwick argued at Holyrood, pleural plaques ‘were good for you’

You can read more about how the insurers & Simpson & Marwick argued against the passage of the asbestos claims legislation at the Scottish Parliament here : Insurance lawyers argue against laws to help asbestos victims asserting part of their suffering 'is a good thing'

Holyrood in Solicitor's Sights October 30 2006 The HeraldLaw Society threatened legal challenge against parliament in 2006. The last time the Scottish Parliament's law making powers were threatened on such high profile legislation occurred in 2006, when the Law Society of Scotland's then Chief Executive, Douglas Mill unbelievably claimed that new legislation in the form of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, created to independently regulate Scotland's 10,000 solicitors contravened a lawyers human right to regulate complaints against themselves.

Despite bringing forward an English QC to claim a human rights breach under ECHR, the Law Society's legal challenge never proceeded, however, lawyers did have their way, and the LPLA Act was heavily compromised through amendments insisted by the Law Society of Scotland, with the help of certain politicians within Holyrood known to be sympathisers of, and some suspect financial beneficiaries of the legal profession.

This time around, the insurers have support from the Scottish Conservative Party, who among their ranks, Bill Aitken MSP, Chairman of Holyrood's solitary Justice Committee after Mr Salmond scrapped the second Justice Committee, fearing opposition control. Mr Aitken apparently believes the asbestos claims law which will force insurers to pay out over pleural plaques, is ill conceived. Mr Aitken of course, has a long background in the insurance industry, as his Scottish Parliament profile reveals.

Incidentally you can read more about other things the Royal Sun Alliance get up to HERE.

Kenny MacAskillMacAskill claims he will defend his asbestos claims law against his own colleagues action. The Scottish Government, no doubt in the form of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill claimed today that they will ‘defend the action vigorously’, but what a slap in the face to the SNP it will be if the Court of Session do give the insurers their wishes. To make matters worse for Mr MacAskill, a legal insider indicated tonight, the Law Society of Scotland were apparently “happy” over the legal challenge against the asbestos claims legislation, one senior official stating “Its about time Holyrood got it in the neck” … indeed, but many of us might just be wondering isn’t it about time the Law Society got it in the neck ?

At the end of the day it comes down to the attitude we are used to seeing in the professions, be it banks, lawyers, or insurers, that money comes before lives, and there are plenty of Scottish legal firms happy to indulge big business and the insurers in that argument, giving a very potent signal to the public that access to justice is only obtainable through corporate wealth, or corporate agreement, and woe betide anyone who is too poor, or requires the use legal aid to secure a smidgeon of court time to pursue life threatening medical conditions which the insurers want killed off .. along with their victims to avoid making any compensation payments.

Money before life in Scotland today … and all because lawyers and their insurer supporters say so. How does that make you feel ?

The Herald reports :

Insurance giants to challenge asbestos claim ruling in court

BRIAN CURRIE April 22 2009

Britain's biggest insurance firms have lodged a legal challenge against a new law which allows Scots workers suffering from exposure to asbestos to sue for compensation.

Aviva, AXA Insurance, RSA, and Zurich have lodged an action for a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh of the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act which received Royal Assent only last Friday.

The act allows claims for compensation for people affected by pleural plaques. The insurers insist clinical evidence shows plaques are symptomless, do not impact on health or lead to asbestos-related diseases and the legislation overturns a House of Lords decision made in a case two years ago.

They claim the act ignores "overwhelming" medical evidence that plaques do not cause asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma, overturns a fundamental UK legal principle that compensation is payable only where physical harm has been suffered through negligent exposure to a risk and fails to fully assess the financial impact on Scottish firms.

Nick Starling, of the Association of British Insurers, said the action had not been taken lightly and claimed the legislation was "ill conceived" and ignored the fundamental legal principle of negligence and clear medical evidence.

A government spokesman said it would "vigorously defend" the challenge.

He said: "We are disappointed that this action to seek effectively to overturn the will of the Scottish Parliament has been taken.

"The insurance companies' action may delay, but will not ultimately defeat, our resolve to defend the rights of people who have been negligently exposed to asbestos by their clients. We firmly believe that our legislation is right in principle and right in law."

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