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    ASBESTOS DEATHS CIVIL LIABILITY

    Mesothelioma caused by asbestos but employer not negligent

    A recent civil liability case involving mesothelioma is interesting in the light of the upcoming relaunch of the HSE Asbestos: Hidden Killer Campaign.

    The case involved employee exposure to asbestos where although exposure was light and intermittent the overwhelming likelihood was that it had caused his mesothelioma.

    The court held that such exposure was not negligent as it was unlikely that during his employment (prior to 1965) the employer would have no reason to believe that he might be exposed to the risk of an asbestos-related injury. The employer had no special degree of knowledge or personal experience which would or should have alerted them to the potential risk.

    The case is said to be persuasive authority that, at least prior to 1965, ordinary employers with no specialist knowledge, who permitted exposure to very low levels of airborne asbestos fibres, have reasonable prospects of resisting liability.

    Comment: This case highlights the fact that tradesmen exposed to “light and intermittent” exposure to asbestos are at risk. Post 1965 such arguments regarding liability will not be persuasive and the best solution is to take appropriate action now to prevent exposure, even at low levels.

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