In seven day’s time, on December 14th, men and women living in Ireland who have the asbestos-related condition of pleural plaques will be allowed to once again, pursue a claim for mesothelioma compensation.
There has been an ongoing struggle to reinstate the ability to make a mesothelioma claim for the presence of pleural plaques – the raised fibrous scarring of the lungs – ever since 2007, when the House of Lords ruled that individuals with the confirmed condition would no longer be awarded mesothelioma compensation.
The change of the law in Ireland follows in the footsteps of Scotland. In October, the Court of Session judges in Scotland were ruled in favour by the Supreme Court justices in London, stating that, ” It could not be said that … judgment was without reasonable foundation”. Consequently, a further appeal by several insurance companies claiming that legislation was unlawful and breached certain provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, was dismissed.
The presence of pleural plaques is known to be an indication that an individual has been exposed to asbestos and around a half of all those who were exposed will develop the condition. While not harmful in themselves, being neither cancerous nor tumour forming, they are almost always present in patients with asbestosis disease and often where patients are diagnosed with the incurable malignant cancer, mesothelioma.
The scarring of the lung tissue can occur in the long latency period of up to 50 years, from when the deadly asbestos fibres were first inhaled to permanently embed themselves in the pleura (lung linings), and the appearance of asbestosis symptoms.
Lack of information and restricted asbestos awareness often meant that right up until the 1970s and 80s during the peak period of asbestos use as a standard insulation material in UK manufacturing, engineering and construction, many thousands of men and women were regularly exposed to asbestos at their workplace.
According to the Royal Courts of Justice, more than 2,000 diagnosed cases of mesothelioma alone are still recorded each year in the UK and the number of asbestosis claim cases has more than doubled from 574 in 2007 to 1,164 in 2010.