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September 22, 2018

Asbestos sufferers facing compensation blow


Asbestos sufferers facing compensation blow

Published: 7 Jun 2014 09:00

MANY Inverclyde people suffering from asbestos-related illnesses could lose out on compensation because of proposed changes to the law, it’s feared.

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The Scottish Government’s Court Reform Bill — which is currently being considered by parliament — would mean some cases would be downgraded from the Court of Session to sheriff courts, or a new specialist personal injury court.

That would mean claimants would not be automatically entitled to the service of an advocate, when insurance companies contesting claims would always hire one to fight their corner.

This could put claimants at a disadvantage, Greenock and Inverclyde MSP Duncan McNeil said today.

Mr McNeil said: “This is an unintentional outcome of this proposed legislation.

“Given the number of people in Inverclyde who suffer from illnesses related to exposure to asbestos, I am very concerned they could come up against an uneven playing field in court — and could lose out on compensation.”

The MSP’s worries are shared by 60-year-old Neil Miller of Greenock, who has a condition known as pleural plaques, which he believes was caused by being exposed to asbestos through working in the shipyards and the building industry.

Mr Miller, who is married with a son and a daughter, found out three years ago that he had the scar tissue on the outside of the lungs after going into hospital for a triple by-pass operation following a heart attack.

He said: “The doctors saw the spots on my lungs.

“I would never have known I had pleural plaques.

“Thousands of people don’t know they have it.

“It hasn’t affected me yet but I’m worried that it could lead on to something more serious and that the planned change in the law would affect my chances of compensation.”

Scottish Government justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has defended the proposed changes.

He says they are designed to ensure that cases are heard in the appropriate court to reduce unnecessary delays and disproportionate costs to all litigants.

Mr MacAskill said: “We do not believe this will result in asbestos cases where insurers have access to counsel and pursuers are denied access.

“We believe the reforms will provide benefits to all court users by ensuring cases are heard in an efficient and effective court system.”

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Asbestos sufferers facing compensation blow

MSPs clash on asbestos Parliament debate ‘snub’


MSPs clash on asbestos Parliament debate ‘snub’

Published: 17 May 2014 08:30

TWO local MSPs have clashed over a bid to force insurance companies to pay compensation to the NHS for treating asbestos victims.

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The SNP’s Stuart McMillan said it was ‘a disgrace’ that only two Labour MSPs turned up for the debate in the Scottish Parliament.

But Greenock & Inverclyde Labour MSP Duncan McNeil, who was not there, today said he was ‘angry and dismayed’ that Mr McMillan had broken long-standing cross-party unity over asbestos matters.

The Holyrood debate which sparked the controversy had centred on an SNP motion welcoming proposals by Clydeside Action on Asbestos on the recovery of costs to the NHS of treating people with asbestos-related conditions and diseases.

Mr McMillan, who is taking forward a Bill on the matter, said: “This Bill is intended to help NHS Scotland recover the costs of treating people with asbestos-related conditions from insurance companies who have already settled civil claims with victims.

“It is estimated the NHS spends £20 million a year on diagnosing and treating people suffering as a result of asbestos exposure — money which will be freed up to treat more people if this Bill is successful.

“I am extremely disappointed in the Labour party’s reaction to both this debate and my Bill. It seems they would prefer to side with the insurance industry and employers who negligently exposed their workforce to asbestos.”

When asked about the debate no-show, Mr McNeil responded by saying that few MSPs were at the debate because it came at the end of a parliamentary day in which business had gone on longer than expected and many had to go to various appointments.

Mr McNeil said: “If the SNP were serious about this they could bring this Bill forward right now, and I hope that they do.

“My experience and commitment towards fighting for asbestos victims cannot be questioned. I have family and friends who have suffered through exposure to asbestos, and I am outraged and offended that Mr McMillan is trying to seek political advantage on an issue where there is no division between the parties.

“We have achieved successes for asbestos sufferers through the parties working together, and it’s shameful to try to score political points like this.”

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Continued here:

MSPs clash on asbestos Parliament debate ‘snub’

Kelman hails bid to recoup asbestos costs

Legislation lodged at the ­Scottish Parliament could pave the way for health boards to claw back the costs of diagnosing and treating the victims of asbestos-related disease from former employers. Campaigners claim incurable diseases caused by ­exposure to asbestos, such as mesothelioma and pleural plaques, cost the NHS in Scotland about £20 million a year.

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Kelman, who has campaigned for compensation for asbestos victims since the 1990s, said: “It’s a step closer to getting industry to take responsibility, and for all those employers who used asbestos knowing what they were exposing the workers to. That would be a big improvement, but I’m sure as we speak the lawyers for insurance companies will be doing everything in their power to avoid it.”

Kelman has previously ­criticised the legal hurdles facing sufferers, saying the “burden of proof is on the victim to prove that you are a victim”.

Thompsons Solicitors, which is acting in about 80% of asbestos cases in Scotland, said it was representing about 1200 people at any one time. A spokesman for the firm said: “There are more cases coming forward than ever before from people who were historically exposed – hospital cleaners, school cleaners and so on.”

The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Scotland) Bill was lodged yesterday by West of Scotland MSP Stuart McMillan. Similar legislation was passed by the Welsh Assembly last November, but has been stymied by legal questions over how to enact it.

The NHS has been able to recover the costs of treating the victims of accidents since 2003, where an individual made a successful claim against a third party. However, this principle does not cover diseases.

Mr McMillan said: “There is a substantial financial cost to the NHS in diagnosing and managing asbestos-related conditions and this is something that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

However, he added that he expects strong resistance to the move from insurers.

Dave Moxham, deputy leader of the STUC, which is backing the new legislation, said: “The NHS and palliative care services currently have to meet these costs from their own overstretched funds. It is time for the employers and the insurance industry to meet their obligations and reimburse the cost of the medical care, as these costs would not exist if there had not been negligence on the part of the employer.”

Alan Kirk, a surgeon and ­director of the pressure group Clydeside Action, estimated the cost for diagnosing and managing mesothelioma – a tumour on the lung – at £60,000 a patient.

He said: “If these sums can be recovered as part of the civil compensation case, funds are going back into the NHS to help to care for the Scottish population.”

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Kelman hails bid to recoup asbestos costs