Insurers faced with potential £29bn claims bill if Scottish decision is followed in England and Wales
Prime minister Gordon Brown has agreed to meet with MPs who want sufferers of pleural plaques to be compensated in England and Wales.
The news is a further blow for insurers, following this week’s defeat of their attempt to stop individuals with the symptomless condition being entitled to compensation in Scotland.
During prime minister’s questions last week, Labour MP for Blaydon, David Anderson, who supports compensation for pleural plaques, asked the PM for an update on the issue.
Brown replied: “As my honourable friend knows, a meeting of legal advisers took place in the past few weeks. I am meeting a group of MPs – I think he is part of it – in the next week.
“I hope to get a resolution to what is a very dreadful disease – asbestosis – and what we can do about it, and also to deal with the problem that arises from pleural plaques.”
Insurers have been waiting on a decision from justice secretary Jack Straw since last year. It is estimated that compensation for pleural plaques victims could cost insurers up to £29bn.
Meanwhile, the Scottish courts upheld the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill, in the face of a judicial review brought by four leading insurers.
The controversial bill, which was passed in March by the Scottish Parliament, overturned a Law Lords ruling in 2007, which found that because plaques – growths on the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos – are asymptomatic, they cannot be compensated for.
Insurers AXA, Aviva, RSA and Zurich are now expected to launch an appeal to the Court of Sessions in Scotland within 21 days.
The ABI maintains its stance that the Damages Bill is “fundamentally flawed” and ignores “overwhelming medical evidence that plaques are symptomless”.
Meanwhile, Anderson described the developments in Scotland as “great news”.
“It confirms what we have argued, that a legal case could be made that redresses this palpable injustice, and it will be but one argument that we will make to the PM,” he said.