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Update: personal injury and clinical negligence

Daniel Easton and Vijay Ganapathy consider asbestos-related claims after the recent pleural plaques case, while Jock Mackenzie reviews medical negligence cases

2 November 2007

Asymptomatic pleural plaques are not an “actionable injury”, the House of Lords held unanimously on 17 October 2007 in Johnston v NEI International Combustion Limited; Rothwell v Chemical & Insulating Company Limited & others; Topping v Benchtown Limited; Grieves v F T Everard & Sons & others [2007] UKHL 39.

Pleural plaques can be described as thickening of the membrane surrounding the lungs. It rarely causes symptoms such as breathlessness or coughing, but its presence confirms the sufferer has been exposed to asbestos, which causes them anxiety that they may later develop a more serious disease such as lung cancer or mesothelioma (a terminal form of cancer).

Claimants were previously able to claim damages for their plaques, the associated anxiety and risk of future disease. Insurers sought to challenge such claims and brought a set of test cases which were heard before Holland J. These included the claim of Mr Grieves who also suffered f...

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