THOMPSONS Solicitors won widespread praise for its efforts on behalf pleural plaques victims when the Scottish Parliament debated the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill, which will restore Scottish victims’ right to compensation, on Wednesday November 5.
Thompsons’ senior partner, Frank Maguire, was singled out for special praise. Duncan McNeil Labour MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde told the Parliament: “We again have the opportunity to stand on the side of asbestos victims.
“If we go on to pass the bill, we will ensure that pleural plaques sufferers can pursue claims for damages.
“We need to remember that the chamber can do that only with the support of Clydeside Action on Asbestos and our friends in the trade unions.
“We also need to remember Frank Maguire of Thompsons for all his work and the support that he has given members across the parties in tackling the issue and making things easier for those involved. I stress the word ‘easier’, although we have made it less difficult for people to get compensation, we should remember that it is still not easy for them to do that.
“We are discussing a measure that is not only historic – people out there today are still being affected. More people die of asbestos-related disease in the UK than die in road accidents.”
Fergus Ewing, The Minister for Community Safety highlighted Thompsons’ contribution to the debate on the costs of the bill when he explained its purpose.
Mr Ewing said: “The purpose of the bill is straightforward: it is to keep things as they have effectively been for the past 20 years, and to ensure that people who have been negligently exposed to asbestos and have developed a symptomless asbestos-related condition continue to be able to raise a claim for damages in Scotland.
“There is no reliable way of estimating how many individuals who have pleural plaques as a result of negligent exposure to asbestos will ultimately make a claim.
“To prepare the financial memorandum, on which the debate has centred we examined the claims that were made over the past few decades. We looked at how many cases were pursued, how many went to court and how many were settled.
“We reached the best figure that we could arrive at. We appreciate the assistance of the Scottish Court Service and of Thompsons, the firm that has acted in about 90 per cent of the cases in question.
“We met them and studied the figures, which are in the financial memorandum. The same is true of the estimated cost of £8,000 a case, plus legal expenses. That is the best figure that we could get. We did not get figures from the insurance companies, which said that their figures were commercially confidential.”
Des McNulty, Labour MSP for Clydebank and Milngavie, said: “I am delighted that the bill has been introduced. The Parliament has not failed victims of asbestos in the past. We have done the right thing before and we are doing it again.
“The insurers have suggested that the passage of the legislation will open the floodgates to a hugely increased number of compensation actions. It may well be that there is a slight increase, perhaps partly as a result of publicity generated by the bill.
“However, the records that have been made available by Frank Maguire of Thompsons Solicitors, which deals with 90 per cent of asbestos cases in Scotland, show that there is a clear pattern in the number of pleural plaque cases emerging in this country.
“There is no reason why, once the backlog of cases has been dealt with, we will not continue to have the pattern pointed to by Mr Maguire.
“My one caveat is that the epidemiological evidence suggests that the peak number of those contracting asbestos-related diseases may not be reached until 2015. The time bomb of past exposure to asbestos is still exploding.’
Jackie Baillie, Labour MSP for Dumbarton, said: “I hope that the member will agree that the issue is to encourage the right action.”
The bill has come about not only as a consequence of the Parliament, but because of the considerable effort of many outside the Parliament, including the Clydebank Asbestos Group, Clydeside Action on Asbestos, Thompsons Solicitors and the trade unions.
Richard Baker, Labour MSP for North East Scotland, said: “The main area of contention, to which the convener of the Justice Committee has just referred, is cost.
“To be frank, some of the insurers’ more spectacular estimates seem wild in light of the evidence from Thompsons Solicitors, which has long experience of bringing such cases.”
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