The Scottish Parliament Justice Committee resumes work on 2 September 2008 after its summer holiday and ahead of that comes a blast, via Scotland on Sunday for 31 August, on one of its first subjects, the Damages (Asbestosis-Related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill, i.e. the one to create liability for pleural plaques.
Scotland on Sunday carries a story in its business section reflecting opposition to the Bill from the Association of British Insurers, Scottish Financial Enterprise, the CBI and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (all due to give evidence at the Committee's first meeting). The essential thrust of the opposition is that the Bill's costs to Scottish industry will damage its competitiveness. A key passage in the report says this:
"The Scottish Government estimates the bill could cost insurers, local authorities and Government departments between £5.5m and £6.5m, but research published by the UK Government, based on the calculation that around 5,000 people in Scotland are known to have pleural plaques while there could be thousands more unknown cases, has placed this figure at anywhere between £1.1bn and £8.6bn."
Scots Law News has some doubts about these figures, much as it has doubts about the Bill itself (see previously here, here, here, here and here). Does anyone know what, if any, damages would be recovered by someone who merely had pleural plaques and no other harm? One doubts whether the Scottish courts would depart from their long-established traditions and start awarding mega- (or any) damages in cases of that kind should the Bill be passed.
Occasional Scots Law News correspondent Dr Martin Hogg is also down to give evidence about the Bill to the Justice Committee on 2 September. We understand that he too is not an enthusiast for the Bill, on the grounds of general legal principle, which should (but won't) be a stronger argument than dubious arguments about money. Also appearing will be Frank Maguire, who will probably offer a different perspective based on morality as much as law. Watch this space.