‘Very significant’ Court of Session decision increases compensation available to victims of asbestos exposure in Scotland

The Court of Session has today issued a decision increasing the compensation available to victims of asbestos-related conditions throughout Scotland. The decision came in Roger Harris v The Advocate General.

Mr Harris has been awarded over £15,000 in full and final settlement of his claim for damages. This is significantly more than the levels generally provided for in voluntary framework agreements currently used by some legal firms and insurers to value this type of claim, potentially setting a new standard for awards of this nature in Scotland.

Mr Harris sought compensation after developing pleural plaques as a result of being exposed to asbestos dust and fibres while working as a boiler maker with the Ministry of Defence between 1961 and 1977.

Although benign in themselves, pleural plaques are an indicator of exposure to asbestos, and are accompanied by a lifetime risk that the individual may develop further asbestos related conditions including pleural thickening, asbestosis, asbestos related lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The court’s opinion was delivered by Lord Boyd of Duncansby. Digby Brown Solicitors, who represents Mr Harris, has described the decision as “very significant”.

The decision is the second major judgement on compensation levels for victims of asbestos exposure in the last few months, with the pursuers in both cases being represented by Digby Brown.

Last August, the Court of Session awarded another pursuer, William Wales, £8500 in provisional damages. Mr Wales was diagnosed with pleural plaques having developed the condition as a result of exposure to asbestos whilst working as an electrician with the Ministry of Defence between 1963 and 1973.

The award to Mr Wales more than doubled the levels generally provided for in the voluntary framework agreements used by some legal firms and insurers to settle claims for provisional damages.

Claimants seeking compensation after developing an asbestos-related condition can choose to resolve their case on either a provisional or full and final damages basis.

In both cases, Digby Brown argued the level of compensation appropriate for the pursuer ought to accurately reflect the specific health risks involved along with their individual distress and anxiety suffered as a consequence of this diagnosis.

Fraser Simpson, Digby Brown partner and head of the firm’s industrial disease department (pictured) said: “This is a very significant decision for those whose lives have been affected as a result of asbestos exposure. Asbestos exposure disease is not a legacy of our industrial past but something affecting individuals and families in Scotland today.

“Although the diagnosis of pleural plaques is shocking enough, sufferers are also forced to cope with the daily fear that a more serious disease may develop.

“The decision recognises the importance of assessing each case subjectively, and shows the progress made by Scottish courts in recognising the distress caused by the presence of pleural plaques.”