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Scots law upheld to allow pleural plaques victims to claim damages

The Government welcomes a Supreme Court decision upholding legislation giving those with the asbestos-related condition the right to claim compensation. Online extra: Read the judgment in full

Insurers lost a Supreme Court bid today to overturn a law in Scotland that gives victims of an asbestos-related condition the right to claim damages.

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At the centre of the unsuccessful challenge by some of the biggest names in the industry was legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2009.

The Damages Act gave people with pleural plaques, a symptomless thickening of lung membranes, the right to pursue compensation.

Supreme Court justices in London dismissed an appeal by a number of insurance companies, including AXA, against an April decision by Court of Session judges in Scotland, who rejected argument that the legislation was unlawful.

The highest court in the land announced that it could not be said that the "judgment of the Scottish Parliament was without reasonable foundation".

Campaigners are expected to visit the Scottish Parliament later today to celebrate the decision, which was welcomed by Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary:  "It has always been our belief that the legislation is right in principle and right in law and I am pleased that it has been unequivocally upheld," he said.

"The Scottish Government's Damages Act was passed with overwhelming support in the Scottish Parliament, and today's decision is a triumph for the progressive politics that saw parties unite to do the right thing and help those that have developed pleural plaques as a result of negligent exposure to asbestos.

"We firmly believe that people with this condition should be able to raise a claim for damages, and we are delighted that this decision has gone in their favour - a result that will surely bring them some comfort."

Nick Starling, the Association of British Insurers' director of general insurance and health, said after the ruling: "Insurers remain fully committed to continuing to pay compensation to people with asbestos-related conditions, such as mesothelioma.

"The insurers brought this case because they believe that the Damages Act is fundamentally flawed in that it ignores overwhelming medical evidence that pleural plaques are symptomless, and the well-established legal principle that compensation is payable only when there is physical harm.

"We are very disappointed that the court has not found in our favour on this important principle of law. Insurers will now consider carefully this judgment and what it means for them."

More than a thousand Scots whose lungs have been affected by exposure to asbestos will be able to take their cases forward after today's ruling. Some have been waiting years to receive compensation for the condition, which has been linked to potentially fatal illnesses.

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