In Scotland a recent test case doubled the level of compensation for a worker who developed pleural plaques on his lungs as a result of being exposed to asbestos. His award of £15,000 took into account the distress and anxiety suffered as a result of this diagnosis. It also sought to value the potential costs of the risks of future conditions. Roger Harris contracted the illness after working amid clouds of asbestos dust and fibres when he was employed as a boiler maker with the Ministry of Defence between 1961 and 1977.
Pleural plaques are a form of scarring on the lining of the lungs. Although generally accepted not to cause any disability there is some evidence that they can have a minor effect on respiratory function. They are an indication of exposure to asbestos and the anxiety about the risk of future disease is clearly a concern to many sufferers.
In England and Wales it was possible to recover compensation for pleural plaques until a House of Lords ruling in October 2007 that pleural plaques are not an injury that should be compensated.
The right to claim compensation was restored in Scotland by the Damages (Asbestos Related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009. Although this was challenged by insurers in the Supreme Court here, in 2011 the court upheld the right of the Scottish Parliament to pass the law granting sufferers that right.
In Northern Ireland the right to claim compensation was restored from December 2011 in The Damages (Asbestos Related Conditions) Bill NI.
Although there have been campaigns in England to overturn the decision not to allow compensation to sufferers of this asbestos related disease it is unlikely that anything will change here anytime soon. The present Government seems more interested in allowing people to claim compensation for late trains.