Asbestos suffers in Northern Ireland won a legal victory in the Supreme Court, meaning that those with pleural plaques can now claim compensation again. It is now possible for pleural plaques victims in Scotland and Northern Ireland to claim, however victims suffering in England and Wales can not. 

This is a result of the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly passing legislation that overruled the decision made by the House of Lords in 2007. That decision meant many thousands of former employees, and their families lost the right to claim for pleural plaques against the former employers who negligently exposed many workers to asbestos. Before the decision was made suffers were able to claim between approximately £5,000 and £7,000. 

Pleural plaques is scarring of the pleura, which is a protective covering of the lungs. It is an indication that the sufferer has been exposed to asbestos and is at risk of other asbestos illnesses. It does not normally cause symptoms and sufferers often do not know that they have it until they undergo a chest x-ray.

The Department of Finance and Personnel said the cost to businesses for pleural plaques could be around £1.9 million. This cost would have primarily been footed by the Employer Liability Insurance Industry who lobbied government heavily in a targeted approach to reduce their liabilities from historic policies granted to companies in the 1960s and 1970s. It is an example of big business manipulating government for it’s own end. The English parliament has the power to pass legislation as the Scottish and Northern Irish Assembly have done, but despite campaigns by cash strapped charities and asbestos support groups, the insurance industry have the ear of the government and no action is being taken.

We solicitors hope that this decision will shine a light on the injustice and inequality and push the government into passing similar legislation in our own jurisdiction.