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Asbestos victims left high and dry by Court of Appeal ruling

Asbestos victims


The Court of Appeal has today sided with employers and their insurance companies and has overturned the right of asbestos victims suffering from pleural plaque, whose cases have not yet been settled, to claim compensation.

This decision deals a severe blow to thousands of asbestos victims, throughout the UK, who live with the fear of developing serious respiratory diseases from exposure to asbestos.

Pleural plaques compensation claim

The appeals, which were heard in November 2005, saw insurance companies argue for the second time that compensation payments for pleural plaques should be ended, as claimants usually have no physical symptoms other than the scarring to their lungs.

This decision follows a group of test cases which were considered by Mr Justice Holland in the Manchester High Court in November 2004. In his judgment which followed in February 2005 the Judge reaffirmed the right of sufferers to pursue pleural plaques compensation claims.



About pleural plaques

Pleural plaques are areas of thick scar tissue, which form in the chest lining and diaphragm. Over time, this thickening of the pleural membrane, lining the lungs, can make breathing difficult and there is a risk that other, more serious, respiratory diseases can develop at a later date.

Whilst pleural plaques are benign, their presence indicates exposure to the potentially deadly asbestos dust and fibres which frequently cause cancer, and lawyers for sufferers say the anxiety caused by knowing a more serious condition could occur in the future is very real.



Pleural plaques solicitor

Pleural plaques solicitor Adrian Budgen, head of the asbestos diseases litigation unit with Irwin Mitchell which is representing over 200 sufferers, said: "Today's ruling is terrible news for pleural plaque sufferers. The condition is a marker of unprotected exposure to asbestos, almost always a direct result of negligence on the part of claimants' employers."

"There is usually a gap of more than 20 years between exposure to asbestos and the formation of pleural plaques. The need to identify witnesses and employers liability insurers at an early stage whilst still traceable is crucial to any future claims if a more serious disease develops as a result of the employer's negligence."

"Provisional damages awards for pleural plaque sufferers which have now been denied to many hundreds of claimants average only £3,500. Over the last 20 years, compensation has been paid for the damage done to employees through the negligent work practices of their employers."

"Simply because the scarring on the lungs is not visible to the naked eye should not mean that this condition is deemed harmless."

Expert pleural plaques solicitor Mr Budgen said: "People diagnosed with pleural plaques have to live with the fear produced by the knowledge they could develop a terminal cancer, such as mesothelioma, and this 'Sword of Damocles' hanging over them means they will never know whether they have a normal life expectancy."

Ken Bellamy, of Sheffield, is one of those affected by today's news. He was diagnosed with pleural plaques in late 2005.

Mr Bellamy said: "I believe my exposure to asbestos took place between 1965 and 1979 when I worked as a pipe fitter at W. Richardson & Co and Hallamshire Heating in Sheffield.

"Whilst I'm hugely relieved I don't have cancer, there is a possibility I will go on to develop an asbestos-related terminal condition. I was the chief witness in the case of a colleague who died aged only 38 as a result of mesothelioma. He had the same exposure to asbestos that we all had through the negligent work practices of our employer.

I don't know what the future will bring, at only 56 I have to live each day in fear that I will not live to watch my children and grandchildren grow up. My wife and I have such a lot that we would like to achieve and experience in life, but now we feel the clock is ticking."

If you or a loved one has been affected by an asbestos related illness, our solicitors can help you to claim compensation. See our Asbestos Claims page for more information.

If you or a loved one has been affected by an asbestos related illness, our solicitors can help you to claim compensation. See our Asbestos Claims page for more information.