Judicial review to be used in battle against Asbestos Bill

The group of insurers fighting Scotland's Asbestos Bill have officially launched a judicial review via Brodies legal firm against the Scottish government.

The insurers bringing the action – Norwich Union (soon to be Aviva), Axa, RSA and Zurich – represent over half the employers’ liability insurance market. They say the Asbestos Bill, which received royal assent on Friday and makes pleural plaques compensable, is ill-founded because plaques are symptomless, do not impact on health, and do not lead to asbestos-related diseases.

Nick Starling, director of general insurance and health for the Association of British Insurers, said: “Insurers have not taken this action lightly. But as the act is ill conceived, ignores the fundamental legal principle of negligence and clear medical evidence, they feel they have no choice.

“Insurers remain committed to paying compensation to those negligently exposed to conditions that impact on their health. But the industry is fundamentally opposed to any move that will extend compensation to those exposed to a risk but not suffering any symptoms, such as pleural plaques.”

The act overturns the decision of the House of Lords in the case of Rothwell in 2007, which concluded that compensation is payable only where physical harm has been suffered through negligent exposure to a risk.

Insurers say the act also ignores overwhelming medical evidence that plaques are symptomless and do not cause asbestos-related conditions, such as mesothelioma; and fails to assess fully the financial impact on Scottish firms and taxpayers. It could also lead to a rise in claims from people exposed to a risk, but having no symptoms, they said.