Proving Breach of Duty in Asbestos Claims

Posted on: June 4th, 2018

The recent case of Bussey v Anglia Heating Ltd is a crucial decision for Claimants that should make it easier to succeed in asbestos claims.

The case involved a Mr Bussey, who developed mesothelioma following his exposure to asbestos whilst working for Anglia Heating. He had been employed as a plumber and during his employment, had to handle and cut asbestos cement pipes and manipulate asbestos rope in order to caulk joints.

At first instance, the Defendant had relied on a technical document called TDN13 that was in force at the time. It was argued that this document was used within industry and set out the levels of exposure that at the time, were believed to be safe. The Defendant argued that the exposure to asbestos was below these levels and that therefore the Defendant could not have been aware that they were potentially harmful. This was accepted by the Court.

However, the Court of Appeal allowed the Appeal, saying that merely being below the levels in TDN13 did not make the exposure ‘safe’. The question for the Court is twofold:

  1. How foreseeable is the risk? To do this, you should look at the information which a reasonable employer in the Defendant’s position at the relevant time should have acquired and then to determine what risks such an employer should have foreseen.
  2. Did the Defendant take proper precautions to reduce or eliminate the risk? If the exposure is variable, then an employer ought to consider the potential maximum exposure and that only if he could be reassured that none of the employees would be sufficiently exposed to be at risk could he safely ignore it.

This is an excellent result for Claimants as it means that each Defendant’s individual knowledge will be taken into account in considering at what level exposure was known to be dangerous. No longer will Defendants be able to argue that TDN13 is a threshold, below which a claim would have to fail.

At Coffin Mew, we act for a number of Claimants across the country, but particularly in the Portsmouth, Southampton, Newbury and Swindon area, with a range of asbestos related illnesses, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, pleural thickening and asbestosis. We can provide advice from the first moment after diagnosis and are here to assist you through what can be an uncertain and frightening time in your lives. Our aim is to take the stress of a legal claim away from you, so that you can be confident in planning for the future.