According to Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, the new legislation will take effect on December 14th. It overturns a 2007 decision by the House of Lords stating that victims of asymptomatic, asbestos-related conditions could not claim compensation. £2.5 million has already been set aside for claims.
In Scotland, a similar ruling came before the UK Supreme Court after a long-running challenge initiated by insurance providers.
In October of this year, the Supreme Court rejected the insurers’ claims that the legislation infringed on human rights.
On Monday, Sammy Wilson emphasized the importance of this legislation.
“…I always believed that the policy objectives of the Act were just and fair and that belief has now been vindicated by the ruling of the UK Supreme Court in relation to Scottish legislation.
“The 2011 Act may be short and targeted, but it is a vitally important Act, which seeks to ensure the continued availability of a method of redress for ordinary working men and women.”
Pleural plaques, caused by asbestos exposure, are small, localized areas of fibrosis that occur in the membrane of the lungs. Before 2007, it was possible to award damages to victims of negligent asbestos exposure even in the absence of symptoms. This new legislation makes this a reality again.
“It must be devastating to be told that you have developed a conditions as a result of having been exposed to asbestos. To be told then that you couldn’t claim compensation for that condition would clearly make the matter worse.” said Wilson.
“The 2011 Act essentially reverses that decision and, whilst the ability to pursue a claim in damages will not fully compensate for any wrong which was done, I hope that those affected will derive some comfort from the fact that the wrongdoer can once again be held to account.”
Asbestos exposure is one of the only known causes of pleural plaques and mesothelioma cancer, both of which affect the lining of the lungs. Left undisturbed, asbestos is virtually harmless, but disturbing it releases microscopic, needle-like fibers that can then be inhaled and embedded into the lungs. Mesothelioma cancer and other asbestos related conditions often do not appear until decades after exposure. Though the use of asbestos is heavily regulated or altogether banned in Western countries, mesothelioma cancer continues to be an issue, as they are the result of asbestos exposure that occurred when the substance was widely used.