The insurance industry has used the House of Lords decision on pleural plaques to avoid paying compensation to people diagnosed with asbestosis, a type of fibrosis of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure.

The decision in four asbestosis compensation claims was given by Newcastle County Court this month. They were the first cases of this type to go to trial since the House of Lords ruled out compensation for pleural plaques in 2007.

In two of the cases, Beddoes –v- Vinters Defence Systems & Others and Cooksey –v- Vinters Armstrong & Others the court accepted the claimants’ asbestosis was a significant injury and justified compensation.

In both cases the claimants were found to have a total disability of 5%, with asbestosis making a small contribution to the cause of breathlessness in each case.

The judge ruled each case must be examined on its own merits. The other two cases were dismissed on the grounds that although the claimants did have asbestosis there was no evidence the condition was significant.

Although the County Court decision breaks no new legal ground it is the first time the House of Lords ruling has been applied in asbestosis cases. It shows claims which had been recognised as compensatable before the House of Lords decision in 2007 are now being challenged by the insurance industry.

Head of Asbestos Policy

Head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors, Ian McFall said: “These cases demonstrate that insurers are prepared to dispute paying compensation in asbestosis cases as they attempt to build on the success they achieved in bringing the test case to end the right to compensation for pleural plaques.

“This satellite litigation is typical of the insurers’ strategy to limit the opportunity for people diagnosed with asbestos related conditions to obtain compensation. Only the Government’s announcement on pleural plaques is likely to end this uncertainty and prevent further cases like this coming to court.”

A decision on the Government consultation on pleural plaques is expected within weeks.

Thompsons Solicitors has worked with MP’s and others to support the trade unions’ campaign to restore the right to compensation for pleural plaques.