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Home > News > Personal Injury News

16 November 2005

We'll keep fighting to win compensation

The wife of a man who lost his battle against asbestos-related cancer has backed a bid to win compensation for thousands of workers who died from the disease. Lawyers today launched a campaign to win up to 1 billion in compensation for people with so-called pleural plaques, a lung condition which could be an early warning of diseases like mesothelioma.

Law firm Thompsons is challenging Norwich Union, which is hoping to end compensation claims for the condition by taking a case to the Court of Appeal in London. Michael Kent QC, representing Norwich Union, told three Court of Appeal judges headed by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips that the condition - patches of thickening on the lining of the lungs - did not lead to diseases including lung cancer and the invariably fatal mesothelioma. He argued that insurance companies should not have to pay out because medical experts were agreed that the plaques were symptomless and showed only that the sufferer had been exposed to asbestos.

However Norwich solicitor Godfrey Morgan, whose Clarence Road based law firm is a leading specialist in asbestos cases, said: 'The insurance companies are trying to tell us that pleural plaques is not a problem - but they are a marker which shows there's been asbestos exposure.' He said pleural plaques were a 'pre-cursor' to diseases like mesothelioma and were a problem, both physically and in terms of the worry caused, to those that had them. 'The insurance industry are just trying to stop people getting what they are entitled to because they don't like it and they've got the money and the muscle to take people on,' he said. He warned that if the insurance companies win they would be closing the door to countless people who have either physical injury caused by pleural plaques or the worry and anxiety of developing mesothelioma.

The legal challenge gained the support of 70-year-old Doreen Mingay whose husband Derek, 74, died in 2004. The former Naval officer and post office worker was exposed to asbestos after working in boiler rooms and died eight months after he was diagnosed with small cell cancer of lungs. 'I think they've got to challenge it - people should be compensated,' she said. 'People shouldn't be treated like that and people shouldn't have to suffer like that for a start. They've known what's going on for years and years and they haven't done anything about it.'

Mrs Mingay, a mother of three who lives on Alexandra Road, Norwich, said the family were told they were not entitled to any compensation after her husband's death, but she felt she, and thousands of others like her should be. 'Of course, the people are entitled to it,' she said. 'When you hear of all these people that trip up and get money and then you hear about someone who caught something through no fault of their own I really think they should be compensated fully. 'It's not only a matter of money, but what and how they suffer. I'm very bitter and I can't come to terms with it. It's not only Derek's life but it's my life as well. He had been my carer for a year and I'm not in very good health at all.'

The Evening News has highlighted the suffering caused by asbestos for many years. The Dust of Death Asbestos Action campaign was launched in 1997 supported by people such as Norwich North MP Ian Gibson. Ian McFall, of Thompsons, said: 'For over 20 years the courts have accepted that pleural plaques, together with the increased risk of future disease and related anxiety, constitutes an injury and should therefore be compensated. 'The majority of people who develop any type of asbestos-related disease, including pleural plaques, do so because their employers were negligent in failing to protect them from exposure to asbestos.

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