Can Family Members of Workers Exposed to Asbestos Get Compensation?

Author:
Gavin Evans
Partner, Industrial Disease Lawyer
Date:
18/02/2019

Yes. This issue has recently been in the High Court with a former Vauxhall electrician winning an asbestos claim against the carmaker after his wife died of mesothelioma last year.

John Carey worked as an electrician at Vauxhall from 1973 to 1979, where he regularly stripped off and reapplied asbestos on pipework throughout its factory at Dunstable. As a result, when he went home after work, his clothes would be contaminated with asbestos dust. There was no on-site showering facility at the Vauxhall factory, although there was a laundering service, it wasn’t used by everybody and it was accepted by the High Court that Mr Carey had not used it.

John Carey met his wife Lydia while working at Vauxhall and they were married in 1978. Years later, Lydia was diagnosed with mesothelioma and she started Court proceedings in early 2018, but died shortly after.

Vauxhall insisted that the amount of asbestos at Mr Carey’s workplace was minimal by 1973, that safe systems of work had been in place and that he wouldn’t have been required to take his work overalls home to be laundered.

However, the High Court ruled that it was satisfied Mr Carey had been exposed to significant quantities of asbestos dust which was transferred back home on his overalls. He now stands to be awarded up to £1 million in asbestos compensation.

At Simpson Millar, we believe this case could empower more people to make similar asbestos compensation claims in the future.

Gavin Evans, Partner and Industrial Disease Lawyer at Simpson Millar, commented: “This High Court decision just goes to show that, even with competing causes of mesothelioma - all relatively low doses in themselves – it’s worth investigating a claim against all former employers where exposure to asbestos did occur.

“Whilst Mr Carey might have easily given up pursuing the claim due to the various sources of asbestos exposure, this case proves that with the right witness evidence and expert evidence, a case can still be brought successfully against one or more of the former employers.

“Although it’s impossible to say in which employment the fatal asbestos fibre was inhaled, each employer who negligently exposed Mrs Carey to asbestos dust of more than a minimal dose can be pursued.

“This will give hope to many sufferers and families of sufferers of mesothelioma that justice will be done, despite the best endeavours of the insurers to wriggle out of their responsibilities.”

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