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April 12, 2011

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Insurers to appeal Scottish asbestos ruling

A court in Scotland has thrown out a legal bid by insurers to overturn a law confirming pleural-plaque victims’ right to seek damages.

The Scottish Parliament passed the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act in 2009, allowing sufferers of pleural plaques – areas of fibrosis that can develop on the lungs as a result of exposure to asbestos – to pursue compensation claims.

The Act itself reversed a landmark House of Lords decision in 2007, which denied victims the right, on the basis that pleural plaques are symptomless and do not constitute an actionable disease.

A group of insurers, including Aviva, AXA, RSA and Zurich, failed in a legal challenge last year to overturn the Damages Act, and appealed. The insurers disputed the validity of the law on the basis that it contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights provisions on property rights, and amounted to unreasonable legal interference.

In a judgement on 12 April, the Court of Session backed the original decision, concluding that there was interference, but that it is justified overall.

Construction union UCATT welcomed the decision but called on the Government in Westminster to introduce a similar law to the Scottish Act in England and Wales.

Acting general secretary, George Guy, said: “It is morally unjustifiable that the vast majority of pleural-plaques victims in England and Wales continue to be denied compensation. Employers who knew the dangers needlessly exposed workers to asbestos. All victims deserve compensation, regardless of where they live.”€

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