Mr Carder, who is now 86, for nearly all of his working life was an Electrician. He was exposed to asbestos by several employers, as far back as the 1950s. Sadly, he developed asbestosis in 2011. By then, the only employer which could be sued was The University of Exeter, which had employed Mr Carder in the 1980s.
The University’s Solicitors accepted that Mr Carder had been wrongfully exposed to asbestos and that the University was responsible for 2.3% of his total exposure to asbestos. The Solicitors argued, however, that as this proportion of the exposure did not make a measurable or observable difference to Mr Carder’s lungs this meant he had not suffered any damage.
The Court of Appeal gave its judgment on 29th July 2016. This stated that, with asbestosis, asbestos fibres act cumulatively to cause and progress the disease and that the University’s contribution to Mr Carder’s exposure to asbestos made his asbestosis more severe “to a small and admittedly not measurable extent.” It held, therefore, that its contribution of 2.3% to Mr Carder’s exposure to asbestos was significant enough for an award of damages. The decision which a High Court Judge had made in July 2015 to award Mr Carder £1,541.00 (representing 2.3% of the total value of the claim of £67,000.00) was upheld.
This judgment is authoritative because it is a unanimous decision by the Court of Appeal. Until now it had always been unclear in cases involving asbestos conditions which act cumulatively (ie. asbestosis and pleural thickening) how large a Defendant’s contribution to a Claimant’s asbestos exposure had to be before it became significant enough for damages to be awarded. Now, for the first time, this question has been answered with reference to a particular figure. We know that even if a Defendant is only responsible for 2.3% of someone’s total exposure to asbestos, this is enough for damages to be awarded against it.
Written by Michael Osborne