Workers with asbestos conditiion lose right to claim compensation from employers

Unions have reacted angrily to a Lords ruling that will prevent workers claiming compensation for an asbestos-related condition.

The Law Lords ended a 20-year right to compensation for victims of pleural plaques, a scarring of the lungs that causes no visible symptoms, by ruling it was not a disease.

The decision comes after a four day hearing in June. The Law Lords were acting on an appeal by Amicus – now Unite – against an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal in January 2006.


Derek Simpson, Unite Joint General Secretary, said: "The judgment will disadvantage many of our members who have been exposed to asbestos in their work by denying them the right to sue their former employers for developing pleural plaques. Unite will continue to fight to re-coup damages for those people who have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos related conditions."

UCATT reacted with “anger and disgust” to the decision, which it said would save insurers of companies hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Alan Ritchie, UCATT general secretary, said: “This is a disgraceful decision. Workers diagnosed with pleural plaques suffer the mental anguish of knowing that they have been given a potential death sentence. Many of these cases were entirely preventable. Businesses knew the risks but decided to play fast and loose with workers lives. The courts are letting them get away with their recklessness”

Last year Amicus estimated more than 100,000 pleural plaque claims were expected over the next 35 years, costing insurers £1.4bn.

Commenting on the judgement Joe Griffiths, solicitor at Manches, said that despite the defeat vicitms of pleural plaques may be able to bring legal actions against employers in the future. He said: "The Law Lords have left the door open for claimants to sue employers for breaching a contractual duty to provide a safe working environment."

Emma Costin, partner at Simpson Millar solicitors, said: "There are many people who will not give up the fight for people diagnosed with this condition. We have already started collecting support for a petition to force the Government to introduce legislation."