Asbestos victory sets precedents


On 11 January this year, His Honour Gary Hickinbottom, sitting in the Cardiff County Court, handed down his judgment in the case of Keith Jones v Metal Box Ltd. & Crown Cork & Seal Ltd. He awarded Jones £60,000 in compensation for the death of his mother, from mesothelioma, in 2001.

The judgment highlighted several key points:

The composition of ‘endless asbestos transfer belts’ used in the production of tin cans during the 1950s/1960s: in the absence of any physical evidence, the Judge ruled they were made of chrysotile contaminated with 1-7% tremolite.

The Court’s comments on the testimony of the defendant’s expert witness, Dr. Alan Gibbs: "There appeared to be no literature in support of Dr Gibbs' contention that there were significant chrysotile deposits, in commercial use, that were free of tremolite contamination…Dr. Gibbs' opinion that Mrs. Jones' mesothelioma was idiopathic was based upon three premises that I have found to be incorrect...In the circumstances, Dr. Gibbs' opinion as to medical causation is fatally undermined."

The processes involved in the installation and use of the ‘endless asbestos transfer belts’, including practices such as roughing up worn belts with a wire brush: “The experts are agreed that this would cause more airborne dust from the belt than any other operation."

The level of hazardous exposure experienced by packers who worked on the assembly line: "Mrs. Jones was intermittently but regularly exposed to small amounts of dust invisible to the naked eye..."

“The general view of national and international bodies is that there is no threshold below which exposure to chrysotile can be regarded as safe…If a person is exposed to chrysotile at levels above those found in the environment at large, then I am satisfied that that person has an increased risk in respect of mesothelioma.”

On 23 January the defendants lodged their intention to seek leave to appeal this decision to the Court of Appeal.

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