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Committee for Finance and Personnel

Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) Bill

Thompson and McClure Solicitors follow up correspondence 31st January 2011

Mr. Shane McAteer
Committee Clerk
Northern Ireland Assembly
Committee for Finance and Personnel
Committee Office
Room 419
Parliament Buildings

31st January 2011

Dear Mr. McAteer

Thank you for your letter of 17 th January 2011.

We are surprised that you should raise the issue of tariffs to determine the levels of compensation payable for pleural plaques.

The Department of Finance and Personnel’s initial consultation, in January 2009, on compensation for people diagnosed with pleural plaques included the option of a statutory payment scheme.

Thompsons opposed a scheme and urged the department to choose option 3 – to restore symptomless pleural plaques as an actionable condition. We did however state that should a scheme be introduced it should be fully funded by the insurance industry and that there should be a fixed sum of compensation paid in every case.

We said the amount should be no less that the £17,500 based on the mid point of the second edition of the Judicial Studies Board (JSB) Guidelines for the Assessment of the General Damages in Personal Injury Cases in Northern Ireland.

We also said that there should be an annual RPI increase in compensation.

As a result of the consultation, the Department chose option 3. We welcomed this decision. This would enable the courts to deal with these cases. The appropriate guidance for the courts should be the JSB (NI) Guidelines, which is based on judicial precedent and is therefore independent.

Had the Department chosen the statutory scheme option, we would have urged it to link the fixed sums of compensation paid, tariffs if you like, to the JSB(NI) Guidelines. We would have opposed a tariff system such as the Civil Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) Scheme, which is not linked to JSB guidelines, does not allow for flexibility and is in fact significantly lower than the JSB.

But the department has chosen, after full and proper consultation, to reinstate the process of determining compensation for pleural plaques as a matter for the courts to deal with making the issue of tariffs no longer relevant. We do not understand why tariffs are now being raised again. Tariffs represent a significant departure from option 3 and the Bill and would, in our opinion, require the Department to consult again.

Yours sincerely,

Oonagh McClure

Thompsons McClure

Dd 02890890471

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