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Pleural plaques victims to get £5,000

25 February 2010

Pleural plaques victims who launched legal claims before October 2007, the date of the House of Lords ruling in the Rothwell, will receive ex gratia payments of £5,000, justice secretary Jack Straw announced today.

Straw confirmed that the government would not attempt to reverse the Rothwell ruling, which found that scars on the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos did not constitute an injury for which compensation could be awarded.

A spokesman for the MoJ said that since 2007 civil servants had studied the medical evidence on pleural plaques and were “unable to conclude that the decision should be overturned at this time”.

He went on: “The medical evidence is clear that while pleural plaques are a marker of exposure to asbestos, they are generally symptomless, are not harmful and do not become harmful.

“Any increased risk of a person with pleural plaques developing an asbestos-related disease arises because of that person’s exposure to asbestos rather than because of the plaques themselves.

“However, if new medical or other significant evidence were to emerge, the government would obviously reassess the situation.”

Ian McFall, head of asbestos policy at Thompsons solicitors, estimated that around 6,000 people would receive the £5,000 payments.

“On behalf of our clients we are disappointed that the government has decided not to overturn the House of Lords judgment, although we recognise that at least some people with pleural plaques will receive something,” he said.

McFall welcomed the MoJ’s announcement that the insurance industry would be providing £3 million of funding for research on asbestos-related diseases.

Straw added that the MoJ had agreed that an employers’ liability tracing office should be set up to help victims of asbestos-related diseases to trace insurers and launched a consultation on setting up an insurance fund of last resort or Employers’ Liability Insurance Bureau.

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