Brodies called in to tackle Scottish goverment ruling

Legal firm Brodies will represent insurers in their planned litigation against the Scottish government over compensation for sufferers of pleural plaques.

In a separate development, Gordon Brown has confirmed that his government will decide after Easter whether sufferers in England also will be eligible for compensation.

AXA, Norwich Union, RSA and Zurich say pleural plaques – symptomless growths on the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos – should not be compensated. The ABI is helping to coordinate their campaign.

“Those insurers will be acting separately for the legal challenge but we’re obviously still working very closely with them and will be helping to present what’s going on,” ­said Justin Jacobs, head of liability, motor and risk pricing for the ABI.

The Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) Bill passed its third stage in the Scottish Parliament on 11 March. Royal Assent was expected yesterday and Jacobs said a challenge should follow soon.

Christine O’Neill, a partner at Brodies who is leading the case, is a specialist in judicial review – the type of litigation the group of insurers is planning to use. The review will consider whether the Scottish government acted lawfully in introducing the bill.

Meanwhile, the same group of insurers has said it will take similar legal action against the Westminster government if it also makes pleural plaques compensable.

Last year the Law lords ruled that plaques could not be compensated, a decision that the Commons was expected to over-rule as long as as last November.

However, during last week’s Prime Minister’s questions, Gordon Brown said: “Asbestosis is a terrible disease, and all those who suffer from it deserve the best of help from the public authorities. It is right that we look again at this as a result of legal actions that have been taken about the obligations of insurance companies.” He said a statement would be made after Easter.