On the 17th October 2007 the Law Lords handed down their judgement which ended the rights of Pleural Plaques victims to claim compensation for their injuries. As was widely reported at the time, the winners from this judgement were the insurance companies, who effectively received a £1.4bn windfall. The losers were the ordinary men and women who had been negligently exposed to asbestos and who, as a direct consequence, had developed Pleural Plaques. For twenty odd years prior to the decision, victims were awarded compensation, and Insurers never thought it necessary to challenge these decisions.
This campaign has been established with the sole purpose of restoring the rights of those people, victims of negligent employers, who now live under the twin shadows of Asbestosis and Mesothelioma.
Pleural plaques are the most common pathological effect of asbestos inhalation. They are scars on the pleura, which is the slippery membrane covering the lungs and which aids respiration. These scars are irreversible. Their presence is clear evidence of exposure to asbestos, and, crucially, at a level sufficient to potentially cause other types of asbestos induced disease, including Mesothelioma, a cancer which is always fatal and is the biggest industrial killer of all time and the third fastest growing cancer in the UK, killing in the order of 2000 people a year.
We start from the fundamental principle that a person has the right to go to work and come home unharmed. The three Lord Justices in the Court of Appeal and the five Law Lords in the House of Lords all accepted that each of the claimants had been negligently exposed to asbestos by their employer.
How can it be right that an employer exposes an employee to asbestos, who then goes on to suffer an irreversible change to their body, and who, as a consequence of that exposure to asbestos, is placed at a significantly increased risk of developing a fatal cancer with all of the anxiety that must come with that, and yet escapes without legal liability?
And this when Insurers knew full well of the dangers of asbestos, set their premiums accordingly and had it well within their powers and expertise to advise employers on the correct precautions to be taken.
The government has initiated a consultation. It closes on 1st October and will decide the future for thousands of victims, so we have only have 15 days to show the government the depth of our feeling and the strength of our convictions.
The case is complicated, but with a strong legal case, and a clear moral imperative on our side I truly believe that we will prevail.
Over the coming weeks we will be putting our case to the nation. Please subscribe to our feed so that we can keep you up to date with the development of the campaign and please download the consultation, read it and let the government know your opinions. This may well be the last chance we get.