In October 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that an asbestos-related cancer victim should receive compensation, even though he was not working directly with the toxic substance.

The victim, who died in February 2014, from mesothelioma, was a lorry driver attending Battersea Power Station between 1954 and 1958 to pick up waste products.

Altough the Devon resident was not in direct contact with asbestos in his offical duties, he did go into areas of the plant where asbestos dust was generated and was exposed to the substance. At the original trail in Bristol, the court dismissed the claim, finding his exposure was of a ‘modest level’ and unlikely to pose a health risk.

The defendent argued that compensation could not be given as the victim was not employed by the occupier of the site and his primary work was not directly involved with asbestos.

The victim appealed on the grounds that working with asbestos was a risk even if the work was occasional or for limited periods. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, with the occupier of the site then appealing to the Supreme Court.

In the Supreme Court, a majority of three judges to two ruled that under the Factories Act 1961 the occupier of the premises is responsible for all people on site, not just direct employees. The judgement also stated that asbestos-industry regulations applied to all factories using asbestos – not just those involved in the asbestos industry.

Lord Kerr said it was ‘fallacious’ to say liabilty depended on a ‘substantial’ quantity of the dust being inhaled. Lord Clarke and Lady Hale also supported the appeal, while lords Reed and Neuberger disagreed.

Article Source: Law Society Gazette


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