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May 24, 2010

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NI follows Scotland on pleural plaques

The Northern Ireland Executive looks set to reinstate the right for people with pleural plaques to claim compensation.

The decision will bring the country into line with Scotland and will give campaigners fuel in their fight to get the right restored in England and Wales.

Responses to a consultation paper examining a House Of Lords’ ruling in 2007 that pleural plaques – areas of fibrosis in the lung, caused by asbestos exposure – do not constitute actionable damage were published on 13 May. An analysis of the comments received recommended that the law should be changed to allow for claims in negligence, despite some resistance from larger bodies, such as insurance firms, to such a move.

Finance minister Sammy Wilson said: “The responses to the consultation exercise revealed how the House of Lords’ ruling in the Johnston case had an adverse impact on the lives of ordinary men and women who, through no fault of their own, had been exposed to asbestos and developed pleural plaques.

“The reinstatement of the right to claim compensation in negligence is, I believe, just and fair and will ensure that people in Northern Ireland have the same rights and protections as people in Scotland.”

UCATT general secretary Alan Ritchie, added: “I am pleased that Northern Ireland has followed the decision in Scotland and will compensate victims of pleural plaques.

“All victims of pleural plaques deserve justice. The decision in Northern Ireland should place further pressure on the new government to overturn the decision to bar compensation for pleural-plaques victims in England and Wales.”

In 2009, Scotland enacted the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act, which re-established pleural plaques as an actionable personal injury. In England and Wales, the previous Labour government decided to introduce a limited extra-statutory payment scheme, rather than overturn the House of Lords’ decision.

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