Amicus the trade union, and its lawyers, acting for asbestos claimants across the UK condemned a Judgment given by the Court of Appeal today in a test case concerning whether compensation should continue to be paid for an asbestos related condition known as pleural plaques.

Thompsons Solicitors is now applying for leave to appeal the decision to the House of Lords on behalf of Amicus, which has supported claims throughout the test case for workers who were negligently exposed to asbestos during their employment.

The Appeal was brought by the insurance industry following a Judgment of the High Court last year when it was decided that claimants with pleural plaques should receive compensation.  The Court of Appeal has today overturned the decision of the High Court.  This means that pleural plaques are no longer compensatable.

Fight will continue to overturn decision

The decision of the Court of Appeal was not unanimous.   It was decided by a majority verdict of 2:1.  The two Judges who held that pleural plaques cases should not attract compensation were Lord Chief Justice Phillips and Lord Justice Longmore.  The third member of the Appeal Court, Lady Justice Smith disagreed.  However, the majority verdict produces the same outcome as if the decision was unanimous.

This decision, unless overturned on Appeal to the House of Lords, will bring an end to an established right to compensation, which has existed for 20 years, for pleural plaques which are in almost every case caused by workers being exposed to asbestos due to the negligence of their employers.   The outcome, if it stands, will result in a substantial windfall saving to the insurance industry.

Amicus General Secretary Derek Simpson said, "This judgement is dreadful and harms many of our members who have been exposed in their working lives to asbestos. We believe that people with pleural plaques should be compensated and we will fight on.”

Pleural plaques are a sign of irreversible damage to the lining of the lung

The ruling will deprive thousands of people of their right to compensation.  One such victim is Ronald Page, aged 76, from Chessington, Surrey.  Mr Page worked for the London Underground for 27 years and is now suffering from pleural plaques.  His job was to remove noise reduction equipment which consisted of panels of white and brown asbestos from the tunnels of the London Underground. 

He comments: “I’m devastated with the ruling.  Members of my family have died from asbestos related cancer. The anxiety of knowing that I have pleural plaques and could develop a deadly disease is with me every waking moment. It is a death sentence hanging over my head.  The judges would have a very different view if they had been exposed to asbestos but of course they have always worked in ivory towers not underground tunnels.”

Ian McFall from Thompsons Solicitors, specialists in representing asbestos victims, comments: “We’re shocked at the result of this ruling and the impact it will now have on thousands of people. Pleural plaques are recognised by medical experts as a sign of irreversible damage to the lining of the lung caused by a history of exposure to asbestos which carries with it an increased risk of malignant disease such as the deadly cancer mesothelioma.”

The BBC also reported this story at "Asbestos Claims ruling overturned".