08 August 2016
Landmark Ruling Changes Future of Asbestosis Compensation Claims
Victims pursuing asbestosis compensation claims could now be helped by a landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal.
On 29 July, 2016, the Court of Appeal decided that employers who had only been responsible for a small proportion of an employee’s asbestos exposure had to pay compensation, even if it couldn’t be proved that the additional exposure they were responsible for had made the symptoms worse.
The case in question involved Albert Carder, now 86, a retired electrician who was exposed to asbestos whilst working at Exeter University in the 1980s. Most of his exposure to asbestos dust took place earlier in his career with other employers before he worked at the university.
At a High Court hearing in July last year, it was reported that his employment at the university contributed 2.3 per cent of the total asbestos dose. It caused Mr Carder to suffer no additional symptoms and the extent that the disease had been made worse by this was not measurable.
Judges found in his favour and lawyers for the university took the case to the Court of Appeal.
But passing judgement, Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, at the Court of Appeal, upheld the High Court’s ruling. He said Mr Carder’s exposure at the university had increased the severity of the disease by a ‘small, albeit not measurable’ extent.
Lord Dyson added: “It is conceded that the increase was material. In my view this concession is critical.
“In these circumstances, the judge was right to hold that Mr Carder was slightly worse off as a result of the 2.3 per cent exposure for which the appellant was responsible.”
What Does This Mean For People Pursuing Asbestosis Compensation Claims?
This means that employers cannot avoid responsibility to pay asbestosis compensation because they were only one of a large number of employers, each of whom contributed a small part of the total dose, on the grounds that “their bit” taken on its own couldn’t be shown to have been responsible for the symptoms.
An example of the absurdity of the employer’s argument can be shown in the following way:
An employee develops asbestosis and has a 30 per cent respiratory disability from the disease.
If he were exposed by only one employer, that employer would have to pay all the compensation.
If he had 50 employers, each responsible for two per cent of the asbestos dose, then he would recover nothing for the same level of disability, for each employer would argue that their “bit” on its own had not made the symptoms worse.
The Court of Appeal has stated that this approach is wrong. If an employer has contributed to the dose which caused the disease, they have to pay a proportion of the compensation. This is only fair.
What is Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a respiratory disease caused by exposure to asbestos. The symptoms include:
- shortness of breath
- persistent cough
- chest pain
Depending on the extent of the damage done, the life expectancy of a person suffering asbestosis varies and can get worse over time. People with asbestosis have a higher risk of developing other asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. For more information, see: What is Mesothelioma?
Asbestos fibres are nearly 700 times smaller than a human hair. Asbestos dust is odourless, tasteless and indestructible. Asbestos dust and fibres continue to kill more than 100,000 workers around the world every year.
Tragically, people who are diagnosed with life-threatening asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma will have been exposed to asbestos decades before doctors were able to make the diagnosis. It is for this reason that any workers who suspect they may have been exposed to asbestos should register their concerns immediately.
Why is it Important to Register Your Exposure to Asbestos Today?
In the event that you are exposed to asbestos it is important that you register this exposure as soon as possible. This way, in the unfortunate event you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, a trace to the time, place and circumstances can be established in pursuing a future claim. One of the tragedies of being diagnosed with mesothelioma is that the diagnosis is so long after the person was exposed to asbestos that the victim may not remember.
Patrick Walsh is a principal personal injury lawyer specialising in asbestosis compensation claims at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.
The Slater and Gordon chest and asbestos disease team have worked with many sufferers and families affected by mesothelioma and asbestosis. For a free consultation call freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.
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