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Last Updated: Monday, 8 November, 2004, 15:36 GMT
Test case for asbestos pay-outs
Surgeons examine a chest x-ray
Insurance firms pay out 25m a year to pleural plaque patients
A test case involving people suffering from asbestos-related diseases has begun as insurance firms try to reduce compensation pay-outs.

The case of 10 men with pleural plaques - lung scarring caused by asbestos exposure - opened on Monday at the High Court sitting in Manchester.

The claimants want compensation, arguing they are worried about getting more serious chest diseases.

But insurance firms say plaques are not injuries and want compensation stopped.

The men say that having the scarring causes anxiety for those who know they have been exposed to asbestos and could contract serious diseases in the future, like mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the lining of the lungs.

'Set time running'

Insurance firms pay out about 25m a year to pleural plaque sufferers.

If the judge, Mr Justice Holland, rules in favour of the insurance firms, compensation payments to people with pleural plaques could be stopped forever.

Frank Burton, QC, for the claimants, told the court that pleural plaques, were "a marker of asbestos exposure" and "set time running" for sufferers.

Typical awards for pleural plaques are 5,000, with the right to return to court if more serious asbestos-related illness occurs, or 10,000 on a final basis.

The case continues.

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