Blackstone silk loses Supreme Court asbestos case

The Supreme Court has ruled that people in Scotland who have been affected by the asbestos related condition pleural plaques have the right to compensation.

Axa General Insurance brought the legal challenge over the Scottish government’s decision to give backdated compensation to individuals who have pleural plaques as a result of asbestos exposure. Blackstone Chambers’ Richard Keen QC was instructed for the insurance giant by Brodies partner Christine O’Neill.

The Supreme Court convened seven justices to hear the appeal, which had attracted several intervenors.

Responding for the Scottish government was Alan Dewar QC of Ampersand Stable alongside James Mure QC of Axiom Advocates, who were both directly instructed by the Scottish Government Legal Directorate Litigation Department.

Ruth Crawford QC, also of Axiom Chambers, was instructed for the advocate general while Aidan O’Neill, also of Ampersand Chambers, was instructed by Thompsons for the third to 10th respondents, who are individuals affected by the condition.

The appellants challenged the validity of the 2009 Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act, arguing that the Scottish government had overreached its legal status and was acting in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights, a right to a peaceful property.

In their judgment the justices rejected the argument stating that the 2009 “act was not outside the legislative competence of the parliament” and that the devolved government in Edinburgh was entitled to legislate on social policy issues as long as its actions were reasonable and fair.

Judges:  Supreme Court deputy president Lord Hope; Supreme Court Justices Lord Brown, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Dyson, Lord Reed

Intervenors: Theodore Huckle QC of Civitas Law and Clive Lewis QC of 11 KBW for Welsh Assembly Government

The Attorney General for Northern Ireland John Larkin QC appeared for Northern Ireland Assembly

Paul Maguire QC was instructed for the Department of Finance and Personnel (Northern Ireland)

Murray Stable’s Simon Collins QC was instructed by Patrick Campbell & Co Solicitors for Friends of the Earth Scotland