Exactly four months until the Ministry of Justice launch on August 2nd of the Pleural Plaques Former Claimants Payment Scheme and already there might appear to be cause for concern due to possible confusion over asbestos compensation eligibility on their own website.

Last August 2010 the Ministry of Justice introduced a special payment Scheme which allowed for applications, beginning August 2011, of one-off payments of £5,000 to be made to those individuals in the unique circumstances of having already begun, but not resolved, a legal claim for pleural plaques compensation.

Their claim would have been set into motion before the Ministry of Justice decided to uphold an October 2007 Law Lords ruling on a Court Of Appeal decision, which concluded that while pleural plaques clearly shows exposure to asbestos, they are not asbestosis symptoms or harmful in themselves and therefore, not grounds for the awarding of compensatable damage under the civil law.

The pleura is a thin membrane consisting of two layers, one inside the chest wall, the other covering the lungs. Between the two layers of pleura, known as the pleural cavity, is a tiny amount of fluid, which acts as lubrication between the lungs and the chest wall as they move during breathing.

Pleural plaques are small, raised areas or tissue, which usually occur on the pleural cavity and are not associated with any symptoms and do not cause illness. They are simply an indication of exposure to asbestos at some point in the past, almost always in the workplace.

While the Ministry of Justice website describes the application process and accompanying documentation, there does appear to be a lack of support information beyond stating its basis as a ‘no fault, no legal cost’ scheme.

There are several key points regarding eligibility, which should be clarified:

Firstly, if the pleural plaques sufferer has died, then claims by executors and next of kin will not be eligible and subject to the recent concession concerning applications by living claimants who have also died since submission of an application.

Secondary exposure victims, as a result of coming into direct contact with a family member’s asbestos-contaminated work clothing, e.g. overalls, boots, will be liable to supply proof, for example, of the family member’s employment or other workplace attendance records.

Previous, successful civil claims and damages awarded to claimants for other asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma or asbestosis may also still be eligible for a payment under the pleural plaques scheme although it must be clearly demonstrated that any compensation was not intended to be for the presence of plaques.

Applications for the Pleural Plaques scheme, which will apply in England and Wales, must be received by 1 August 2011 and it is recommended that further advice be taken regarding elegibility from an experienced asbestosis lawyer.